Here's What Happens When You Spend Too Much Free Time Responding To Work Emails

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By Aaron Taube

It's no surprise that employees get stressed handling work-related emails during their off hours, but new research suggests that these weekend communications could also cause people to have difficultly sleeping and put them at greater risk of getting sick.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, two Northern Illinois University professors collected data from 303 people about how and when they respond to work emails during weekends, week days, sick days, and vacation time.

What the study found was that workers who felt like they needed to respond immediately were more likely to agree with statements like "I have no energy for going to work in the morning."

In addition, the workers who were tied to their smartphones and laptops did not sleep as well as those who were not, and they also had more health-related work absences.

One of the study's authors, Larissa K. Barber, tells the WSJ that employees who are preoccupied with responding quickly to emails can also become more focused on looking busy at work than on completing bigger tasks.

"Telepressure," the name Barber has given to stress caused by 24/7 email connectivity, has caused growing concerns in recent years, as more and more office workers have made themselves available to bosses on nights and weekends.

Earlier this year, a group of French unions and the country's tech business trade group signed an agreement recognizing that workers have the "right to disconnect" at some point after they have left the office.

Meanwhile, Germany's labour ministry banned the department's managers from emailing or calling employees after work, unless it was an emergency. The German firms Volkswagen, BMW, and Puma have similar internal policies.

While American companies are unlikely to implement similar rules, Barber tells the WSJ that managers can decrease their employees' email-related stress by explicitly stating a timeframe for when they expect a response.

This way, an employee who receives an email late at night can sleep soundly knowing it's okay for them to wait until the morning to draft a response.
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