Checking into The Office After Work is Damaging Your Relationship

by | September 7, 2018

Scrolling through your phone, checking into the office, taking a call or two. It only takes a few minutes and your partner is busy anyway, what’s the harm?

Virginia Tech researchers recently surveyed 108 employees working at least 30 hours per week, as well as 138 significant others and 105 managers, and found that the amount of time spent monitoring work email led to increased anxiety. Not just in the working individuals, but in their partners, too.

“Some employees admitted to monitoring their work email from every hour to every few minutes, which resulted in higher levels of anxiety and conflict between spouses,” said study co-author William Becker, an associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business, when speaking with ABC News.

Sarah Bregel wrote for Scary Mommy, that she also had the same problem, a husband that was physically there, but mentally not available because of work and he was constantly checking into the office.

She wrote “for years, I felt the strain of a partner who was always working “after hours.” In fact, my marriage eroded in part because my husband was always expected to be plugged in and connected to his job. Let me tell you, it was hard — not just because I wanted attention from him when he arrived home for the day, but also because I’d be with the kids all day, and barely get a break once he arrived”

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Yet, admitted, that it wasn’t just her husband that was to blame – his boss was constantly calling, texting and asking for availability during his off time. 

His boss was always calling and texting him after work, asking him to do a thousand small tasks. He couldn’t just ignore it. And if certain communication didn’t occur, the daily goals wouldn’t be met. I didn’t want him to get in trouble with his boss, or worse, be fired.

Should we look to our European neighbors for advice?

A new French law establishing workers’ “right to disconnect” that went into effect. The law requires companies with more than 50 employees to establish hours when staff should not send or answer emails. The goals of the law include making sure employees are fairly paid for work, and preventing burnout by protecting private time.

French legislator Benoit Hamon, speaking to the BBC, described the law as an answer to the travails of employees who “leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash—like a dog.”

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In 2012, Volkswagen blocked all emails to employees’ Blackberries after-hours. Daimler took the step of deleting all emails received by employees while on vacation.

The German labor ministry enacted an only slightly less sweeping ban in 2014, prohibiting managers from calling or emailing staff after work hours, except in an emergency.

American Workers 

A “right to disconnect” bill introduced before the New York City Council in March 2018 wants that to change. The bill would make it illegal for private NYC businesses with 10 or more employees to mandate their employees to respond to calls, emails, or texts outside of their standard work hours. The bill doesn’t forbid sending after-hours emails, but aims to remove any pressure for employees to respond and help them stop checking into the office after hours.

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While New York has the longest work week in the country, many employees across the nation are subjected to regular overtime and after-hours communication, according to Forbes. In fact, according to 20-Something Finance, the United States is the most overworked developed nation in the world. It was also stated that 86% of males and 67% of females work more than 40 hours a week. Adding required out-of-office communications on top of long workweeks could lead to some unfavorable health consequences that affect both the employee and the employer.

A 2016 study from researchers at Colorado State University collected data from 297 working adults. They found that after-hours emails negatively impact the emotional health of employees – leading to burnout and a diminished work-family balance. Authors of the study stated that this type of “job norm” and workplace culture creates “anticipatory stress” for employees – regardless of the actual time that is required for responding to after-hours emails.

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“What we find is that people who feel they have to respond to emails on their off-hours become emotionally exhausted, partially because they can’t detach from work,” one of the researchers, Samantha A. Conroy, stated in the study. “They are not able to separate from work when they go home, which is when they are supposed to be recovering their resources.”

While this bill may not affect you directly, the studies show that burnout is a good risk if you don’t put down that phone, or worse: losing your family over someone else’s company by constantly checking into the office.

Next time you reach for the phone, consider if it really is an emergency, or can it wait until the next day in the office. 

Sick Kids, checking into the office

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Associate Editor, USA | Contactable via [email protected]

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