Answering email after hours is bad for your emotional health.
Colin Anderson—Getty Images/Blend Images
By Alicia Adamczyk
July 28, 2016

If you’re after-work routine involves answering emails from your boss or coworkers, chances are your emotional health and family life are suffering. But then, you probably knew that already.

A new study out of Lehigh University finds a link between after-hours emailing and emotional exhaustion. The study collected data from 365 working adults on their emailing habits. It found that those who are expected to answer emails once they’re technically off the clock are more likely to experience burnout.

According to the study, the exhaustion in turn hurts work-family balance. The authors point to previous research that finds even simply checking your inbox is a hinderance to restoring the mental and physical energy you expended during the day.

The authors note: “Email is notoriously known to be the impediment of the recovery process. Its accessibility contributes to experience of work overload since it allows employees to engage in work as if they never left the workspace, and at the same time, inhibits their ability to psychologically detach from work-related issues via continuous connectivity.”

And it doesn’t necessarily seem to matter if you spend one minute answering a simple question or an hour working on something more in-depth: The authors note that the mere expectation of having to be on email is enough to exhaust people. The study purports to be the first to identify “email-related expectations as a job stressor.”

“The results suggest that modern workplace technologies may be hurting the very employees that those technologies were designed to help,” the report concludes.

So the next time you find yourself scrolling through your Outlook inbox, ask: Is answering this email worth emotionally exhausting myself and harming my relationship with my family? The answer should be fairly obvious.

Need help unplugging? Here are some tips.

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