Answering work emails over Christmas can harm your health

·2-min read

Stress from answering work emails over the Christmas holidays can be harmful to your health, according to new research.

Although the festive season is time to make merry with loved ones, many of us can't switch off from our jobs - and with the lines between home and work life increasingly blurred due to the Covid-19 crisis, we can't resist checking our inbox.

However, academics from the University of South Australia have found that constantly being on-call can affect your physical and mental health.

Dr. Amy Zadow has said that the expectation for employees to be available 24-7 is putting too much pressure on workers.

"Being available to work both day and night limits the opportunity for people to recover - doing things such as exercise and catching up with friends and family - and when there is no recovery period you can start to burn out," she explained.

Dr. Zadow and her team surveyed more than 2, 200 academics and professional staff across 40 Australian universities, and found that employees who responded to digital work communications out of hours were more likely to suffer from burnout, psychological distress, and poor physical health.

Among those they studied, they found that 26 per cent felt that they had to respond to work-related texts, calls, and emails from supervisors during leisure time, and 57 per cent of employees had responded to work emails in the evenings.

In addition, 50 per cent reported that they often receive work-related communications from colleagues on the weekend and 36 per cent claimed that it was the norm to respond immediately.

"Our research shows that high levels of out-of-hours work digital communication can have a significant impact on your physical and mental wellbeing, affecting work-family relationships, causing psychological distress, and poor physical health," Dr. Zadow added. "Conversely, workers who kept their work boundaries in check experienced less stress and pressure."

The research showed that those who were expected to respond to after-hours communications from colleagues on the weekends reported higher levels of psychological distress (56 per cent compared to 42 per cent); emotional exhaustion (61 per cent compared to 42 per cent); and poor physical health (28 per cent compared to 10 per cent).

As a result, the University of South Australia's Professor Kurt Lushington advises taking a break from monitoring your inbox during the holidays, saying, "Everyone should have the right to disconnect."

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