Technology has created an increasing precedent in many organizations that employees be available to respond to emails, and other communications, even when not actually at work. A recent study has highlighted that this expectation, regardless of any actual work being done, is detrimental to employees and their families.1
Dynamic communication systems may be a double-edged sword
Dynamic communication systems, such as email, and other chat apps have created the ability for much more flexibility within employment roles, allowing for communication to be conducted virtually anywhere in the world. However, this flexibility may be a double-edged sword. On the one hand it may give a tremendous amount of flexibility, while on the other hand this flexibility may give the underlying assumption, or expectation that its “always work time,” or that communication channels are at least “always open.”
This expectation may be entirely unstated, though easily taken for granted once employers and colleagues demonstrate that emails, and other communications, will be handled during non-work hours. This could be a significant source of overwhelm, anxiety and burnout.
Studies have shown that competing elements of home and work life are significant factors of stress, and relationship strain
This, as well as other studies, have shown that competing elements of home and work life are significant factors of stress, and relationship strain in people’s lives. Often, this equates to individuals not being able to fulfill non-work roles in the home, because they are consistently bringing work home. Interestingly, this study shows that employees don’t necessarily need to be performing work during off-hours to experience this strain. The expectation that they are available is enough.
It’s an issue with two contributing factors
One, we live in a culture where the insidious message is that we should “always be on.” This is a cultural factor that is often ingrained in individuals regardless of an employer’s specific expectations. And the second factor is the employer, who may be promoting unrealistic communication expectations.
For the Employee
The authors of the article recommend individuals who may be overwhelmed by the looming thought of being on-call, or needing to check their email at home to use mindfulness practices. Being present with oneself helps mitigate the anxiety that real or false expectations can create in the mind. Mindfulness practices, such as breathing or meditation, help to create this sense of presence, and create clarity on where one’s self begins, and where work begins.
For the Employer
The article also suggests that employers be more mindful of the covert and overt ways that time is requested, expected, or specifically asked for by employees. If there are communication needs after hours, perhaps these should be further structured so that individual employees are aware of times when they may need to be available, and which times they don’t need to be available. Essentially, this boils down to clarity in expectations, with upfront communication regarding job roles.
- Becker WJ, Belkin L,Tuskey S.Killing me softly: Electronic communications monitoring and employee and spouse well-being. Academy of Management Proceedings Vol. 2018, No. 1.
Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review that has been in print since 2005 and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at Love is Medicine to explore the convergence of love and health.