Stress due to employers’ expectations of work during non-working hours brings strain in the family ties as the employee is unable to fulfil non-work roles at home.
Such expectations are “an insidious stressor that not only increases employee anxiety, decreases their relationship satisfaction and has detrimental effects on employee health, but it also negatively affects their partner’s health and marital satisfaction perceptions,” said Liuba Belkin, a teacher at University in Pennsylvania, US.
Employees do not need to spend actual time on work in their off-hours to experience the harmful effects.
The mere expectations of availability increase strain for employees and their significant others — even when employees do not engage in actual work during non-work time.
“The competing demands of work and non-work lives present a dilemma for employees, which triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives,” added William Becker, Associate Professor at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the US.
The findings were presented at the Academy of Management’s annual meeting in Chicago.
According to Becker, policies that reduce expectations to monitor electronic communication outside of work should be ideal to mitigate the adverse effects of negative health outcomes.
When that is not an option, the solution may be to establish boundaries on when electronic communication is acceptable during off-hours by setting up off-hour email windows or schedules when employees are available to respond.
Importantly, organisational expectations should be communicated clearly, Becker noted.
“If the nature of a job requires email availability, such expectations should be stated formally as a part of job responsibilities.”
Knowing these expectations upfront may reduce anxiety in employees and increase understanding from their family members, he said.
As for employees, they could consider practicing mindfulness, which may help them to “be present” in family interactions, and help reduce conflict and improve relationship satisfaction, said Becker.
However, while mindfulness is within the employees’ control, email expectations are not, he added.