I recently read a new article called “Killing Me Softly: Electronic communications monitoring and employee and spouse well-being” and I immediately thought of the number of people this issue impacts in the Bay Area, let alone the US at-large. In essence, the study found that the culture of an organization was more important than the actions. A culture that expects employees to check email 24/7 means more than the hours an individual actually spends checking email outside of work. This is a classic example of “spillover“, or stress that bleeds from one area of our life to another.
While this is a mild stressor, I think it is one more example of chronic stress and an inability to “turn off” our brains and simply live in the present moment without worry about the newest email alert or slack notification.
I vividly remember sitting in the car as I was about to go drive off to see Christmas lights with a friend. I was so relaxed, happy, and suddenly inbound slack messages began popping up on my phone. This was 8pm on a Sunday evening; I felt an immediate wave of frustration, but also sadness that my coworker was working on her Sunday night. I felt like I had no choice but to respond right then since she was working on a task for one of my clients and had a question. I saw there and my friend asked, “Why do you have that on your phone?”
I was dumbstruck. My response, “Everyone has it.” Yup, and would you jump off the bridge too? He just kind of looked at me, shaking his head. He did not even have his work email available on his phone. When he left work, he left work.
It’s not quite that simple at every organization. A culture like this creates such a sense of urgency and an inability to turn off. I even brought my laptop on my one real vacation of the year and responded to emails that easily could’ve waited. One of my clients even told me that I should get offline and go enjoy my trip…
Research shows that its not just the employee that suffers, but also their significant others suffer as well. Just think about the ripple effects that come from one bad workplace. Pretty crazy, right?
Luckily, I don’t have that experience at my current organization, which is a blessing. I do not take it for granted and fully enjoy my evenings and weekends free from pings of any type. And even if there is a ping, there is not an expectation that it will be answered before 9am the next business day.
I know not all of us are that lucky. So, what are some strategies to deal with a workplace with the expectation of constant communication?
- Have a very blunt conversation with your manager–the research is backing you up! It’s not just about you; it’s about your significant others and your on-the-job productivity.
- Turn off notifications.
- Set the example; when one person sets boundaries, it can set off a positive chain reaction.
- Practical tips: leave your phone out of sight or turn the phone off at a certain time each night.
Do you feel tied to your email? What is your company culture like?