In our digital and constantly-connected world, it’s all too easy to log back into your work network when you get home, or check your emails on a Friday night when you should be doing far more fun things.
While constant connectivity can be hugely beneficial, adding more flexibility to our working lives, a recent study found that the pressure to check work emails out of hours is actually causing burnout among employees.
A team of three US university researchers – Liuba Belkin from Lehigh University, William Becker from Virginia Tech, and Samantha Conroy from Colorado State University – recently put together a report entitled ‘Exhausted but Unable to Disconnect.’
The results of the study show that expectations on employees to be always available, and never knowing what requests will be made of them outside of office hours, is causing staff to become exhausted.
It should be said the majority of companies do not have a formal policy in place to say that individuals must check and respond to work-related messages in their own time. But this trend is more about workplace culture than policy.
Managers and supervisors play an important role in reversing this damaging trend, the report notes. If people in these positions regularly email employees after hours, and deliver fast responses themselves (suggesting that they expect fast responses in return), then the message is that employees should be on hand whenever the boss emails them.
According to the researchers, one solution is for bosses to let employees know that just because they have received an email out of hours, that doesn’t mean they have to respond to it before the next working day. It’s also advisable to set clear after-hours times when emails are prohibited, such as after 10pm or on the weekends.
At Lucy Bristow, our policy is that we don’t expect staff to check their emails out of hours. A Consultant may decide they want to contact a particular candidate or client if an urgent deadline helps either to clinch a job or employ a dream candidate; however, we recognise that downtime is important to our staff wellbeing, and that they should be able to spend less time on their smartphones and more time with family and friends!