A recent study suggests that after-hours work expectations can be considered a threat to maintaining a healthy work-family lifestyle balance. The phenomenon, known as “workplace telepressure” is the unfortunate flipside to the increased convenience and flexibility offered by mobile devices, email, and the increased connectivity of the modern world.
The research in question is a small survey study that looked at 297 adults in a variety of industries. The first survey asked participants about their workplace norms regarding email during non-work hours and how much time they spend on email for work outside of normal hours. Questions were also asked about emotional exhaustion and how often they thought about work matters when away from the office. The follow-up survey focused on work-family balance and asked questions about how well the participants felt they were able to maintain a proper work-family lifestyle.
The findings were not entirely surprising. Even when corrected for industry, age, gender, and individual desires to separate work and home life, email expectations from work increased email time outside of work hours. This in turn was linked to difficulty maintaining a work-life balance. The consequence is that employees are having a harder time emotionally and physically detaching from work matters, leading to increased stress, poorer performance, and early burnout.
Telepressure is a known phenomenon and one that comes from a myriad of different sources. Employees can sometimes foster telepressure on their own thanks to the “norm of responsiveness” people can show towards emails and text—an expectation of quick replies. Inherent in some telepressure situations is an increasing expectation to always be available, which can further complicate matters.
A 2012 survey indicated that only 21% of companies had formal policies regarding communicating outside of work hours and only 26% reporting informal policies. Working to improve these numbers requires workers and employers alike to try and foster less intense expectations about after-hours work, reducing the norm of responsiveness, and otherwise showing respect for the needs of a proper work-life lifestyle balance.
“NIU researchers: Why preoccupation with work emails, texts could be bad for your health,” Northern Illinois University web site, November 13, 2014; http://www.niu.edu/features/11-13-14/telepressure.shtml, last accessed August 12, 2016.