By Katie Warren
Checking your emails after work may seem harmless, but it can actually be bad for your health, well-being, and your relationships.
A new study found that employees who felt the need to respond to work emails outside of traditional business hours reported higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of well-being and relationship satisfaction, TIME reported.
The study, entitled “Killing me softly: Electronic communications monitoring and employee and spouse well-being,” surveyed 142 full-time workers and their significant others about their employers’ expectations around email.
“Regardless of how much time individuals actually spent on monitoring/answering work emails outside of work hours, the mere presence of organizational expectations to monitor email outside of work led to employee anxiety and negative effects on well-being, which also affected their partners (spouses/significant others),” Dr. Liuba Belkin, an associate professor of management at Lehigh University and a co-author of the study, told INSIDER in an email.
These expectations are a “significant stressor above and beyond actual workload and time spent on handling it during non-work hours,” she added.
The pressure to check work emails in the evenings or on vacation doesn’t just affect you. It can also have an impact on your partner’s happiness.
“I would add that one interesting finding was that while the employee did not report lower relationship satisfaction when expectations and anxiety about email were high, their significant other did,” Becker said.
The researchers also found that these expectations led employees to “more frequent monitoring” of their emails, with some checking them as often as every few minutes.
“The time spent on emails did not lead to the same detrimental effects,” Dr. William Becker, a Virginia Tech associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business and study co-author, told INSIDER.
“Only expectations and actual monitoring contributed to these effects,” he said. “This suggests that people can be responsive and connected but that they also need to take chunks of time and disconnect from work and be present with their family.”
In January 2017, a law went into effect in France that gave French workers the “right to disconnect” and ignore email outside of working hours, Business Insider reported.
Belkin and Becker said they don’t support a uniform ban on work emails because the nature and responsibilities of a job can vary. But reducing this anxiety associated with electronic communication should be a top priority for both workers and employers, they said.
Belkin said “mindfulness training” has been proven to be effective for reducing work-related anxiety.
She also suggested organizations make expectations surrounding email as clear as possible to reduce employee anxiety and damage to relationships.
“If the nature of a job requires email availability, such expectations should be stated formally as a part of job responsibilities,” she said.
If you never disconnect from work, you can never get out of the work mindset and recharge, Becker said.
“And that ultimately hurts your well-being and relationships,” he added. “Ultimately this should also matter to leaders and organizations because people will burn out and leave eventually.”
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Originally published at www.businessinsider.com