Responding to Emails After Work is Bad for Your Health

Email was supposed to give us extra time – you can send an online message instead of meeting up in person, work remotely, and think more about what you have to say before you actually say it. But now that everyone can be reached almost instantly, work email has been oozing into our after-work hours, subtly demanding a quicker response when we aren’t really supposed to be working.

More than half of Americans say they stay connected to work during the evening, on weekends, on vacation and when out sick. Many feel that ignoring email is more stressful than just sending out a quick response.

Unfortunately that constant connection seems to be coming at a cost to our health, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Lead author of the study, Larissa Barber, calls it “telepressure” – the compulsion to answer every work-related email the moment you receive it, no matter what time of day. By doing this, she says, you’re exposing yourself to workplace stressors when you’re at home.

Some of the health effects of this continuous work connection researchers found included worse sleep, higher levels of burnout and more health-related absences from work.

Barber remarked, “When people don’t have this recovery time, it switches them into an exhaustion state, so they go to work the next day not being engaged.”

She also noted that it’s one thing to be aware of “telepressure,” but another thing altogether to stop feeling it, suggesting that those who are struggling with this issue meet with their employer or employees about email expectations to avoid that pressure from starting in the first place.

typeBarber also suggests that instead of emailing someone about what they’re doing after work, for example, ask in person, and save longer, work-related messages for email. If you don’t send personal emails, you’ll be less likely to take a longer response time personally.

Conversational back-and-forth emails like that all but demand an immediate response, partly because it just feels rude not to reply. Being explicit about the purpose and timeline of the email can make a big difference, she says.

While we may get our work done more quickly because of telepressure, we’re likely damaging our health in the process. Change this bad habit by fighting the urge to check email when you aren’t working as well as the urge to pressure others to get back to you quickly.

-The Alternative Daily


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