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Pressure to check work email after hours can be bad for your health, personal relationships: study

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Briarcliff Manor, NY — You’re at home with family in the evening when you receive an email notification. It’s from your boss. Do you respond? A new study finds that pressure to check work email from home can negatively affect your health, your relationship with your significant other, and his or her health.

For the study, titled “Killing me softly: Electronic communications monitoring and employee and spouse well-being,” researchers from Virginia Tech and Lehigh University surveyed 142 couples, both of whom worked full time. Each was asked about the level of expectations to monitor work email after hours and daily email habits. They then answered questions about anxiety regarding work emails and, in the case of their partners, their anxiety about their significant other’s email use during non-work hours. Participants also provided information on their health, sleep quality and relationship satisfaction.

Participants who said they felt pressure to monitor work emails while at home reported more stress and more negative feelings about their health. In addition, their significant others also reported more negative feelings about their health and their relationship satisfaction.

“The mere expectations of availability increase strain for employees and their significant others – even when employees do not engage in actual work during non-work time,” an Aug. 10 press release from Virginia Tech states.

The researchers recommend that employers consider setting up boundaries on when employees can and cannot respond to off-hours emails, and that employees do their part when around significant others or other family members by being “present.”

“Mindfulness is a practice within the control of the employee even if email expectations are not (i.e., those are enforced by their organization or their manager),” Liuba Belkin, study co-author and associate professor of management at Lehigh, said in an Aug. 13 press release.

The study was published online July 9 in the Academy of Management Proceedings.

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