Technology has blurred the lines between where we work and where we live, allowing our workplace to encroach on our home life.
Lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe are weighing the pros and cons of making it illegal to either send work emails or expect employees to respond to work emails, after hours. It is estimated employees are working an extra 2 hours a day by responding to emails after hours, and these additional hours are reducing the time spent with family or the time spent resting.
Apart from the effect this is having on family life, recent studies have shown that one of the negative effects of mobile email is employee’s “anticipatory stress” - the stress caused by the expectation that they need to respond to an after hour work request. This “always on” or always working mode is then leading to burn out because people are not ever switching off or truly resting.
A complete ban, or limitation, on after-hours emails is probably not the ideal solution in environments where employees might choose to clear their emails late at night (or early in the morning). To limit the “anticipatory stress” and allow employees to switch off and disconnect employers need to start creating more policies and a culture around when you are expected to respond or act on work emails.
As we move to an economy where more people are working out of the office we need to consider the effect the “always on economy” is having on our workforce. We need to find a middle ground between making after-hour emails illegal but still making it culturally acceptable for people to keep the barriers between work and home life.