Raise your hand if you checked your email after leaving the office last night or before going in this morning. Yep, pretty much all of us. Being chained to your smartphone is real.
But other than those nightly notes from your boss being a major pain in the butt, they're actually harming your health, says a new study. Researchers at Lehigh University looked at how the constant expectation to be checking in with the office is impacting our lives (did you know in France, it's actually illegal to check your work email on the weekends? BRB getting our passports...). As you'd probably guess, it's not great.
For the study, the researchers collected data about the working habits of 365 adults in several industries. In a series of surveys, they measured organizational expectations, time spent on email outside of the office, psychological detachment from work on nights and weekends, the level of emotional exhaustion, and perceptions of work-life balance.
Unsurprisingly, they found that the expectation to constantly be checking in with the office creates "emotional exhaustion" and leads to problems with your sense of work-life balance. In fact, all that after-hours emailing is right up there with other job stressors, like super intense workloads and interpersonal office conflicts in terms of the toll it can take on your health. Yikes.
According to the researchers, the issue is that to really replenish your energy for the next day, you need to leave the office both physically and mentally. But the unfortunate reality is, most of us can't just unplug at 5pm. (Here are 8 Surprising Symptoms of Stress.)
Some things you can do to create better work-life balance:
Suggest a pilot program
"When it comes to work-life balance, the easiest way to get it approved by your manager is to pilot it," says Maggie Mistal, a career and executive coach. She suggests taking your research to your boss and asking if you can test it out for two weeks. If it doesn't make you more productive at the office, you'll return to your regular schedule.
Rather than waltz into your boss's office and announce you will no longer be checking emails after leaving the office, start by testing it out one or two nights a week. Tell your team you'll be unplugging every Tuesday night, but if there's a true emergency, they can call you.
Be a team player
If it's not feasible to disconnect on the weekends, see if your coworkers would be willing to take shifts. You can field requests from your boss on Saturdays if your officemate agrees to handle Sundays.
Set expectations up front
According to Mistal, the best thing you can do is set expectations early on. "A lot of people have a mental block about that because they think that makes them sound like a diva," she says. But really it's about you wanting to be more productive. Knowing you don't have the cushion of emailing your coworkers late into the night will make you more likely to get everything done before you head out for your evening yoga class. Plus, you'll come in fresh and ready to tackle your to-do list in the morning.