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‘Always on’ email culture contributes to worker stress: researchers

August 8, 2016

Blacksburg, VA – Employee anxiety over management’s expectations for monitoring email during non-work hours causes “anticipatory stress” that can negatively impact worker well-being and job performance, according to research from Virginia Tech.

“Even during the times when there are no actual emails to act upon, the mere norm of availability and the actual anticipation of work create a constant stressor that precludes an employee from work detachment,” William Becker, study co-author and associate professor of management at Virginia Tech, said in a press release. “Such expectations – whether real or imagined – cause more problems, including burnout and work-life balance problems, than the actual time it takes to read and respond to after-hours emails.”

Workers who exhibit a strong preference for keeping their professional and family lives separate often are the most strongly affected, but even employees less concerned with work-life balance will feel the effects of emotional stress and exhaustion over time, the researchers said.

Recommendations include making managers more aware of the adverse effects of the “always on” culture.

“Managers need to be cognizant of the consistent negative impact on individual perceptions and well-being that may prove to be especially onerous over time, not only to individuals, but also ultimately to organizational functioning,” the researchers said.