Is Work Email Ruining Your Health?Posted: 26th of June 2015 by
Could our constantly-connected working lives be bad for your health? With so many of us having access to our emails on our mobile devices and when not actually at work, there has been a growing concern that out health is being put at risk. Working outside of work hours, when you should be relaxing has been shown to be detrimental to our health, while assertions that this extended working practice can boost productivity have also been seen to be false. So, is reading your work email outside of work bad for your health? And does it actually hurt, rather than help productivity?
So says a former government advisor, who has been studying the situation. Sir Cary Cooper asserts that looking at your work email outside of office hours has actually damaged British productivity, telling the BBC, “"For people to be working at night, weekends and holiday on emails is not good for the health of our country."
However, it is not just this growing trend for working in our free time that is bad for us, according to Sir Cooper, but also internal email in the work-place. Instead, he feels that we need to move back towards face-to-face meetings and telephone calls within the same building in order to forge better and healthier working practices.
The key is in preventing employees from feeling that they need to be linked to their emails all the time, and this includes changing how employees operate while they are away on holiday at at the weekends. It is true, that there is little more demoralising than returning to work to find hundreds of emails that need dealing with following a break. This has led many to continue checking in while they are supposed to be resting.
The result of this is lower productivity as employees never really get to rest away from work, according to Sir Cooper, who is professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University and previously advised the Government Office for Science about mental health in the workplace.
In fact the UK has the second-lowest rate of productivity out of all of the leading G7 industrial nations – behind the US, Germany, France, Italy and Canada. Only Japan was found to have a worse rate of productivity, so clearly something needs to be done to tackle the problem.
While calls for work servers to be shut down in order to prevent employees accessing then over the weekend have been called too extreme a measure, it is clear that a shift in culture is needed to prevent employees from burning out. Having to be seen as constantly available has led to a rise in stress and depression
That said, for the moment, it seems that email is here to stay, as is the temptation to just ‘check in’ over the weekend and while on holiday. It appears that it is time that employers changed their focus from the so-called “macho” culture of always being available to realising that we all need to take a break from work from time-to-time.
For now, that seems to be something that needs to be addressed on an in individual and company-by-company basis, but perhaps the fact that working around the clock actually lowers productivity may cause some to look up from their smart-phones and pay attention to the need for a break!
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