Checking email from work during non-working hours can harm health: study

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Washington: Turns out, employer expectations of work email monitoring during non-working hours are harmful to the health of not only employees but their family as well.

William Becker, a Virginia Tech professor in the Pamplin College of Business, conducted a new study, "Killing me softly: electronic communications monitoring and employee and significant-other well-being," which showed that such expectations result in anxiety, which adversely affects the health of employees and their families.

The study revealed that employees don't have to spend actual time on work in their off-hours to experience the detrimental effects. Just the expectations of availability increase strain for employees and others even without the actual engagement of the employees in work during non-work hours.

Becker said, "The insidious impact of 'always on' organizational culture is often unaccounted for or disguised as a benefit — increased convenience, for example, or higher autonomy and control over work-life boundaries."

Becker's research interests also include work emotion, turnover, organizational neuroscience, and leadership.

Few other studies have shown that the pressure of increased job demands leads to tension in family relationships when the employee is unable to fulfill non-work roles at home.

According to Becker, policies that decrease expectations to monitor electronic communication outside of work would be ideal. The solution may also include establishing boundaries or time limits on when electronic communication is acceptable during off-hours by setting up off-hour email schedules when a person is available to respond.

He also said that if a job requires email availability, such expectations should be communicated clearly as a part of job responsibility. Such steps could reduce anxiety in employees and increase understanding from their family members. And for employees, they could practice mindfulness, which has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and tension.

Becker's study will be presented at the Academy of Management annual meeting in Chicago.

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