"Always On"? That Culture Can Lead Employees to Exhaustion and Chronic Stress (and Lower Productivity)

Have the kind of boss who thinks nothing of emailing you at 2 a.m. -- and expecting you to answer?

Well, now, not so surprisingly, a new study done in France has found a link between organizational after-hours email expectations and emotional exhaustion.  Big deal, you might say.  But, big duh, it affects productivity.  Workplace technologies may be hurting the very people they're set up to help, according to newswise.com.

Using data from 365 adults, researchers looked at the role of "off-hour" organizational emailing and discovered that it leads to burnout and diminished family life-work balance.  I could have told them that!

Being the OCD person that I am, when I worked for a very large corporation that did a lot of this, I found myself checking my email every hour (or oftener) after getting home from work till bedtime -- and sometimes, even in the middle of the night.  Those who didn't were shamed and sometimes punished.

Those who are exhausted but unable to disconnect or detach from checking their email can now add this to the list of office stressors, along with high workload, interpersonal conflicts,physical environment and time pressures.  In fact, it might even rank up there first.

Employees must be able to detach both mentally and physically from work, say experts.

"Email is notoriously known to be the impediment of the recovery process," write the authors. "Its accessibility contributes to the experience of work overload because it since it allows employees to feel like they never left work."  Who hasn't been there?

Interestingly, the study found that it's not the amount of time that drives the exhaustion but the "anticipatory" stress, defined as a constant state of anxiety and uncertainty as a result of perceived  or anticipated threats.  I've even seen people on their iPads at the beach or pool this summer. 

"This suggests that these expectations can steal employee resources even when actual time is not required at work," the authors add, "because employees cannot separate from work."

Therefore, if an organization perpetuates the "always on" culture, "it might prevent employees from fully disengaging from work, eventually leading to chronic stress."


Interestingly, the study found that  


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