Is checking your work email after hours ruining your marriage?
How many times do you open your work email once you leave for the day? Do you feel a sense of obligation to monitor your inbox after hours looming over you?
You’re not alone. And being tethered to your work email around the clock isn’t just hurting you.
In a recent study titled “Killing Me Softly: Electronic Communications Monitoring and Employee and Spouse Well-Being,” researchers analyzed more than 140 sets of couples and found that relationships and home life suffer when individuals constantly monitor and respond to work emails.
Even if an employee isn’t spending a great deal of time away from work on emails, an organization’s expectation that its associates are doing so can have dangerous health effects, as well.
According to Liuba Belkin, study co-author, these expectations are “an insidious stressor that not only increases employee anxiety, decreases their relationship satisfaction and has detrimental effects on employee health, but also that it negatively affects partner (significant other) health and marital satisfaction perceptions” (what the researchers defined as the “spillover effect”.)
“Disconnecting from work after hours is essential to maintaining healthy work-life balance,” says Dr. Danielle Principato, a psychologist with Advocate Medical Group. “We all deserve distraction-free time with ourselves and our families. If we are constantly checking and replying to email while at home or when spending time with loved ones, the time off of work cannot truly be restorative. Relationships and work productivity will both suffer.”
So what can we do?
As employees, “if shutting off the email is not an option, then setting specific times to check it may help,” says Dr. Principato. “Believe it or not, there are phone apps (Forest, Mute and Moment are just a few) that can help keep you offline.”
And as employers, we should consider reducing expectations to monitor email outside of work whenever possible. While the researchers acknowledge this isn’t possible in certain industries, “nevertheless, organizations could set off-hour email windows and limit use of electronic communications outside of those windows or set up email schedules when various employees are available to respond,” they say.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks and playing with her dog, Bear and cats, Demi and Elle.