Employers who want more productive, happier employees should encourage their teams to not be on-call 24-7. While technology has made it easier than ever for work to occur at all hours of the day, there are clear benefits to unplugging and shutting down regularly.
One study from Kansas State University found that disconnecting from work is crucial for the brain to function well. Workers feel that they need to always be available to demonstrate their availability if they want to appear dedicated to their jobs. But this leads to high levels of emotional and psychological stress. Work ends up draining all of the employee’s energy. Unsurprisingly, researchers found that those unable to disconnect had higher levels of fatigue and burnout.
While checking email outside of work may not seem to be that big a deal, it adds up. The need to always be available, to respond quickly, and to be ready to tackle projects at all hours of the day takes its toll. You don’t have the mental capacity to invest in important relationships with your spouse, your children, or your friends. The Kansas State study found, “If working couples don’t recuperate from their job stress while at home they would be likely to fall into a spiral of lost resources.”
This one might seem counterintuitive. Employees are staying online longer precisely to show how committed they are to their jobs. But image isn’t reality. It turns out that constant multitasking decreases the quality of work. And when your brain is always “at work,” it eventually takes its toll.
Many have described the issue of constant connection as an addiction, at least according to a University of Maryland study. People experience fear of missing out on what their friends and acquaintances (and, of course, people they’ve never met) are up to at any given moment. They’re also afraid of missing out at work. Competition at work has only increased with technology, and this leads to an increase in feelings of jealousy and anger.
Regularly disconnecting from work decreases stress, improves relationships, increases the quality of your work, and maintains emotional health. It’s difficult, but entirely possible, to set aside time to live without those precious electronics. You might have a cutoff time at night, a specific day of the week, or just a couple of hours in the early morning. But ensuring that you have some time for yourself is key.
Employers play a role here too. Set a policy discouraging employees from using Slack or email after certain hours or on the weekends. At the end of the day, no one wishes they spent more time responding to emails or checking their phone.