More than ever, we are available 24/7 to our employers and that harms our mental health and work collaboration. With the internet and smartphones, we are “always-on” and always available. If you want to collaborate at your best and stay mentally strong and healthy, you should log out after 5pm.
It is stressful to get an email at 11pm from an important client or your supervisor. However, many studies showed that even those who have no boss are anxious and have boundary issues.
A new research, led by Virginia Tech management professor William Becker found that even the expectation from employers to be available 24/7 can raise stress levels not only for the employees but for their families as well. Even if a boss did not send late-night emails or abuse their privileges, if there is only an option that employees must be available, the expectation alone can produce negative effects on employees.
If you have ever worked in a workplace with “flexible hours,” you know that often translates to being available 24 hours a day and the result is a high level of stress and worry. Needless to say, that can harm employees’ overall health.
William Becker said:
“The insidious impact of ‘always on’ organizational culture is often unaccounted for or disguised as a benefit — increased convenience, for example, or higher autonomy and control over work-life boundaries.”
The health consequences are offering strong evidence against expecting people to be available whenever and wherever. However, if you are a boss who is not convinced by arguments of work-life balance and the fluff about the negative health effects, there is great evidence that business will suffer too. If you don’t have boundaries with your employees you can expect measurable negative effects on business productivity as well.
A study from Harvard, looked into the performance of the team of three people who had the task to solve thorny complex problems. One team talked face to face, the second team participants worked in isolation and a final group chatted continuously on their phones. You might think that more connection means better collaboration but research shows that not having boundaries will have an impact on productivity and creativity. For high productivity and creativity, employees need to be well-rested.
The group that interacted with each other often but had some time for being alone, came up with the most innovative and best solutions. Researchers from Harvard suggested that the combination of connection and isolation resulted in the best results for collaboration. Ethan Bernstein said:
“As we replace those sorts of intermittent cycles with always-on technologies, we might be diminishing our capacity to solve problems well.”
Expectations that you should be always be available is enough to cause stress and to reduce the performance and creativity at work. You need to protect yourself from these expectations and save some time for you, family and friends. If you are a boss, you should provide that for your employees as well, and give them a clear instruction that they are not expected to be always available. However, if you are not a boss what should you do? Here are a few simple steps that you can take. The most important thing is to communicate your expectations from the employer. The first time your boundaries are crossed, you should react.
If you are a boss, be an example. Do not send emails in the late hours, and do not respond to those emails in the late hours. Taking care of employees and showing them that you do care will make them appreciate the workplace and the company even more. Therefore, they will be more productive, innovative and creative.