Lots of us may be guilty of it, but a recent US report suggests that checking work emails late at night or during the weekend could be bad for the health of workers – and their loved ones. Our Health & Safety Director, Mark Littlejohns, looks at what the findings mean in practice.
The report warns that competing demands on a person’s professional and home life – like checking work emails out-of-hours – can trigger feelings of anxiety. And, it adds, employees don’t actually need to check work emails to experience these harmful effects – the mere expectation that they should be checking them in the evening or during the weekend is enough to create increased strain for them, and their partners.
Experts at Virginia Tech state, ‘the insidious impact of an always on organisational culture is often unaccounted for or disguised as a benefit — increased convenience, for example, or higher autonomy and control over work-life boundaries. Research exposes the reality that flexible work boundaries often turns into work without boundaries, compromising an employee’s and their family’s health and wellbeing.’
In light of the findings, companies should have policies in place to reduce the expectations on workers to check emails out of work. If this isn’t possible, they should set clear off-hour email windows, or schedules when employees are available to respond.
France has already adopted a similar approach, with employees having the legal right to avoid work emails outside working hours altogether under a new law, dubbed ‘the right to disconnect.’ It applies to all companies with more than 50 workers, stating that they must draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails. If they want to stay ahead, protect their employees’ health, and work responsibly, UK employers could take note.