If you answered “yes” to the above question, you are not alone. According to a Gallup poll,
more than a third of full-time workers say they frequently check their email after working hours. The same research, not surprisingly, attributed this trend to advances in mobile technology: Nearly all U.S. workers have access to a computer, smartphone or tablet. But does checking email outside of normal work hours contribute to an increase in productivity—or does it simply add to stress?
Here are some points to consider.
Who is more likely to check email off the clock?
Young workers and men are more likely to check email frequently outside of work hours, according to Gallup. Those earning more than $120,000 annually and those with at least a college degree were more likely to check their email constantly.
Why do we check our email after work hours?
Some of us want to be the first one to respond to an email calling for action so that we can be perceived as the most dedicated employee. We also don’t want to miss out on any time-sensitive opportunities. And many managers and workers are obsessed with keeping a “tidy” inbox so they won’t face a barrage of emails at the beginning of the work week or day.
What are some of the health- and work-related performance consequences of checking email after work hours?
• It promotes stress without promoting efficiency: Research from the University of British Columbia found that constantly monitoring our inboxes promotes stress without promoting efficiency. The study’s authors suggested that emails provide an unending source of new tasks while making us less efficient in accomplishing those tasks.
• It results in poor mental health: According to a study commissioned by Germany’s Ministry of Labor, there is a link between poor mental health and those who have regular access to their work emails. In fact, the country is considering legislation to restrict after-hours access to work-related correspondence. The German car maker, Volkswagen, has already programmed its email server to stop delivering messages between 6:15 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following morning in addition to weekends. Another German car maker, Daimler, also has a program in place to automatically delete all incoming work emails during an employee’s vacation and lets the sender know that they should contact someone else.
• It causes distraction: It is conceivable that not as much attention is dedicated to solving a work problem after work hours when that attention is split between family or child-care duties and work issues.
Should employers have workplace policies that discourage work outside of normal work hours?
Although the Gallup poll discussed at the beginning of this article found that employees who say they were expected to check email outside of normal work hours reported stress 19 percent more frequently compared to employees whose employers did not expect them to check email after regular work hours, the level of engagement of an employee plays a role in stress, too. Engaged employees (about 30 percent of U.S. workers) report better well-being and lower daily stress compared to nonengaged workers (52 percent), regardless of whether or not their employer expects them to check email outside of their work hours. A study from Texas A&M University also found that those who liked their job did not mind checking after work hours.
So, should restaurant owners focus on finding the right employee for the job so they are engaged, or create workplace policies related to checking email after work hours? Perhaps what the employer needs to do is clearly state their policy regarding checking work-related email away from the restaurant. This would allow any new applicants to choose an employer whose organizational policies align with their personal work culture.