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New Study Says Checking Your Emails After Work Is Actually Unhealthy

Why everyone needs a boundary from the boss.

Living in the age of technology has its inarguable perks. A lot of people can work from home whenever they feel like it, your schedule is more flexible, and you can even reap some of the benefits of working outside. But, according to a new study, published in the journal Academy of Management Proceedings, the feeling of being on-call 24/7 isn't doing your overall well-being any favors.

According to William Becker, a Virginia Tech associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business and co-author of the study, bringing your work home with you puts a strain across much of your life.

"The competing demands of work and nonwork lives present a dilemma for employees, which triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives," Becker said.

But even when you don't have actual work to do in your off-hours, simply knowing that your boss can email you with a question or an assignment at any hour can prevent people from taking a much-needed break from their jobs.

"Our research exposes the reality: 'flexible work boundaries' often turn into 'work without boundaries,' compromising an employee's and their family's health and well-being."

Not only does anticipating an email from your boss raise your stress levels, but it can also make you more likely to ignore your family members and personal responsibilities, which come at a real emotional cost. And while expecting your employees to be on the clock all the time may seem like a good idea in theory, in practice it results in less mentally healthy and productive employees. As such, Becker recommends that employers maintain stricter boundaries with their employees.

It's an idea that's already being considered by New York City, where city council member Rafael Espinal recently introduced a "Disconnecting from Work" bill that would make it illegal for employers to contact employees after work hours have ended.

"There's a lot of New Yorkers out there that don't know when their work day begins or when their work day ends, because we're all so tied to our phones," Espinal told WCBS. "You can still work, you can still talk to your boss, but this is just saying that, when you feel like you've hit your boiling point and you can't do it anymore, you're able to disconnect and decompress for a while."

When a job requires an employee to be on-call 24/7, Becker proposes clearly stating that expectation in the hiring process, or establishing acceptable off-duty hours for work-related communication.

"If the nature of a job requires email availability, such expectations should be stated formally as a part of job responsibilities," Becker said.

He also suggests employees practice mindfulness.

"Employees today must navigate more complex boundaries between work and family than ever before," he said. "Employer expectations during nonwork hours appear to increase this burden, as employees feel an obligation to shift roles throughout their nonwork time. Efforts to manage these expectations are more important than ever, given our findings that employees' families are also affected."

For more on how our tech addiction is negatively affecting our personal lives, check out Here's Why Your Phone Is Making You a Terrible Parent.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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