I always have my phone on me, so it seems natural to respond to emails and messages whenever they come in. I try to only work when I'm on the clock, but if I'm just lounging on the couch, what's the harm in responding to a work inquiry? According to a new study, working after hours is a really bad idea. Answering work emails after hours can cause exhaustion and affect your sense of well-being. Even something as seemingly harmless as a quick email response can have a huge impact on your health in the long run. Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland and the University of South Florida surveyed nearly 2,000 people from a range of industries and asked them about their work-life balance, including whether they worked on weekends and thought about work while at home — and what they found affects everyone who thinks catching up on emails on a Sunday night is no big deal.
According to the findings, people who didn't set a clear divide between work time and free time were less likely to participate in sports, hobbies and socializing outside of work. It turns out that it's super important to schedule time where you don't think about your job, even though it's easy to mindlessly scroll through your work email.
"Employees who integrated work into their non-work life reported being more exhausted because they recovered less," said study co-author Ariane Wepfer in a press release. "This lack of recovery activities furthermore explains why people who integrate their work into the rest of their lives have a lower sense of well-being."
So if you're tempted to work around the clock or even check your work email before you head to bed, it may be time to reconsider your priorities. When you make time for hobbies and leisure activities, you're less stressed, more likely to make friends and more creative. If you feel like you're too busy with work to pick up a new hobby or sport, you're actually setting yourself up for a life filled with exhaustion. We already knew that work-life balance was important thanks to previous research — when people aren't able to take time off of work, they're more likely to feel burned out, and it creates a nasty cycle.
"Organizational policy and culture should be adjusted to help employees manage their work-non-work boundaries in a way that does not impair their well-being," Wepfer said in the release. "After all, impaired well-being goes hand in hand with reduced productivity and reduced creativity."
If you're at a company that pushes you to always be available, they're actually setting themselves up for failure. When employees are exhausted, they're less productive and more likely to look for other jobs, and it can also lead to employee dissatisfaction and resentment.
According to Entrepreneur, there are several things you can do to establish work-life balance if you feel that it's missing. Try literally scheduling some leisure time. Put your yoga class or date night on a calendar so you can't miss it, and don't let yourself think about work or check your email while you're relaxing. It's also recommended to turn off your phone and computer every once in a while. Unless you're required to be on-call, there's no reason to always be tuned in.
It can be hard, because we're living in a world that values overworking. The #nodaysoff hashtag on Instagram has nearly 5 million posts. Being exhausted and never taking a break isn't a glamorous or enviable thing — it can actually be dangerous and even deadly. Don't be afraid to ignore or turn off your phone's notifications when you're not working or on vacation. You're actually helping your company out in the long run, and you'll become a better worker in the process.