The work-from-home lifestyle has created a unique — and sometimes challenge —change to work-life balance.
Remote workers are compiling extra work hours due to the different circumstances causing new levels of burnout and stress, as the average workweek has increased by nearly 40% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
As companies sought to create more comfortable offices and better work accommodations before the pandemic, it seems that that’s been forgotten by way of how we communicate nowadays — through email.
After hours for work nowadays are important. For those with children, it’s additional schoolwork and cooking and finding ways to keep kids entertained when normal avenues won’t suffice now. And those pesky emails that come after work ends can trigger stress and even affect your night’s sleep, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted new research looking deeper into work-life balance via technology like a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The study, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, found that workers who can manage their surroundings — or “boundary control” — are more prepared to stave off stress instead of falling into a trap to answer unanswered emails and other alerts past work hours.
Normally, it would be easier to create a barrier between work and home since things like commutes can often ease us from one mindset to another, but since workers are at-home full-time, it’s becoming difficult to set up boundaries.
“Most people simply can’t work without a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer,” YoungAh Park, a professor at the University of Illinois, said in a press release. “These technologies are so ubiquitous and convenient that it can lead some people to think that employees have to be always on or always available. Clearly, this kind of after-hours intrusion into the home or personal life domain is unhealthy, and our research shows that an always-on mentality has a big downside in the form of increased job stress.”
Researchers focused on more than 500 public school teachers in grades K-6 to gauge how often they were engaging with work-related matters outside of classroom time over a five-week study. Things like work-related emails and messages were measured by how quickly respondents answered those calls in addition to other matters.
The key for not letting work slip into your off-time was turning off alerts or reminders on phones, researchers said. Like news alerts, these types of messages or reminders can have damaging consequences on our livelihood. Blocking these types of alerts helped people manage negative effects of constant workflow such as negative work rumination and insomnia, researchers noted.
“A really important point around the sense of boundary control is that stakeholders can influence employees’ control,” said Park “Our study suggests that school principals can play a positive role in that their support for work-life balance was associated with the teachers’ greater sense of boundary control. When you have supportive leaders who model behaviors for work-life balance and work effectively with employees to creatively solve work-life conflicts, that translates into less stress for teachers through boundary control.”