Life

New study reveals that answering emails after work is bad for your health

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Kayleigh Dray
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There’s nothing worse than having an inbox filled with ‘urgent’ emails at the end of the working day; in fact, it’s one of the main reasons so many of us stay in the office after-hours – or, at the very least, log into our emails from home to tackle them after dinner.

However experts have now revealed that there is a very good reason to shut down your computers at the end of the day, as a new study has confirmed that answering after-work emails is bad for your health.

Using data collected from 297 working adults, Liuba Belkin and her researchers at Colorado State University, Virginia Tech, and Lehigh University discovered that there is a link between after-hours emails and emotional exhaustion, which leads to “burnout” and diminished work-life balance, which is essential for our individual health and wellbeing.

And it’s not just receiving the emails which are stressing us out, either; it’s the anticipation of receiving them, too.

That’s right; just knowing that a work-related email could be on its way “contributes to emotional exhaustion”.

They said: “Email is notoriously known to be the impediment of the recovery process. Its accessibility contributes to experience of work overload since it allows employees to engage in work as if they never left the workspace, and at the same time, inhibits their ability to psychologically detach from work-related issues via continuous connectivity.”

Woman stressed at her computer

Failing to switch off after work could be bad for your health

Researchers went on to explain that, in order to restore ourselves after the working day, we must allow ourselves the time to detach both physically and mentally from work – which is why it’s so crucial that we a) leave on time, b) take our full lunch hours, and c) step away from that email inbox after-hours.

“Satisfaction with the balance between work and family domains is important for individual health and well-being, while individual inability to successfully balance roles in those domains can lead to anxiety and depression, lowered satisfaction with both work and family roles, absenteeism, decreased job productivity and organizational commitment and greater turnover.”

“As prior research has shown, if people cannot disconnect from work and recuperate, it leads to burnout, higher turnover, more deviant behaviour, lower productivity, and other undesirable outcomes,” said Belkin.

The research has caused us to become even more envious of the Scandinavian lifestyle (as if we needed another reason).

Danish women laughing in coffee shop

The Scandinavian approach to work-life balance has been hailed as one of the best in the world

With a typical working day of 8am to 4pm, Denmark has the best work life balance in the world.

Even better? Staying late to attempt a little unpaid overtime is more likely to earn you a lecture on inefficiency than a pat on the back from your boss.

We recommend making it your mission to make leaving work on time the rule, not the exception – and to ditch the late night email checks, too.

This won’t just boost your mood and health levels, it’ll also help you to power through and get more things done throughout the day – helping you to become more efficient as a result.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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