Published: 09 January 2015

Staying in touch during out of office hours damages workers’ wellbeing

The findings of a study by PhD student Svenja Schlachter and academics from the University of Surrey’s School of Psychology have been presented at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology annual conference in Glasgow.

Employees using various technological devices to stay ‘switched on’ for work outside of office hours may face detrimental effects to their wellbeing and private life.

Svenja Schlachter, currently a PhD student whose studies are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, scrutinised 65 previous studies in-depth to determine the effects of being constantly ‘switched on’ for work outside of office hours using modern technologies. The reviewed studies were conducted mainly in North America and involved a total of 50,000 employees.

Analysis showed that employees hoped that staying ‘switched on’ increased flexibility and efficiency at work. However, many used various technological devices for work outside of office hours because they believed there was a strong expectation to be available 24/7.

Svenja Schlachter said: “Using varied technologies for work outside of office hours is a complex issue which is here to stay and needs to be addressed. Staying ‘switched on’ might increase flexibility and efficiency at first glance, but in the long run, it can result in longer work hours and can be detrimental to wellbeing due to stress and work-life balance issues.

“We need to re-think unlimited 24/7 access to work, and manage technology use more wisely and in particular, more actively. Researchers, employers and employees need to work jointly on how to make the use of technologies as beneficial as possible, reducing the negative effects. Otherwise, there is a danger of unintended knock-on effects.”

School of Psychology and our Psychology programmes.

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