With smartphones, tablets and featherweight laptops, it’s never been easier to check email—even if it’s at 11 p.m. just before your head hits the pillow. But even though it’s convenient, emailing after office hours can negatively affect your health. A recent study conducted by Liuba Belkin of Lehigh University, William Becker of Virginia Tech, and Samantha A. Conroy of Colorado State University found that checking email outside of the office might lead to emotional exhaustion and hurt work-family balance.
At Integrative Nutrition, we believe in holistic approaches to improving both physical and mental health, and taking tech breaks is just as important as exercising and eating nutritious meals.
Using data from nearly 300 working adults, the study’s authors found businesses that expect employees to check email after hours are negatively affecting the emotional state of their employees. This constant connection to work can lead to burnout and disrupted family time.
“Email is notoriously known to be the impediment of the recovery process,” according to the authors. “Its accessibility contributes to experience of work overload since it allows employees to engage in work as if they never left the workspace, and at the same time, inhibits their ability to psychologically detach from work-related issues via continuous connectivity.”
This “email expectation” doesn’t even have to be a formal one. If employees get the impression that their company culture is to always be connected, they may feel pressured to frequently check email, making them susceptible to emotional exhaustion and chronic stress. Unfortunately, this is the norm for many employees these days. Companies may provide employees with smartphones and encourage checking emails at all times, even during vacation.
Not only can emailing after hours take away from family time and create emotional distress, but looking at a screen late at night can disrupt sleep. That’s why it’s important to avoid screen time at least an hour before bed. Light from tech devices has been shown to negatively affect sleep patterns and even decrease alertness the following day. So although you may be checking email before bed to get ahead for the next workday, it’s actually doing more harm than good.
If you work at an organization that pressures you to check email at night, try to balance it with relaxing evening activities. A bubble bath, game night with your family or turning off your phone for even an hour can help. In addition, consider purchasing a real alarm clock instead of using the one on your phone. This can prevent those 1 a.m. email checks, as well as stop you from checking email first thing in the morning.
How do you disconnect from technology? Share your tips here.