Link between after-hours email expectations and emotional exhaustion

Have you ever emailed someone after working hours? Do you expect to get responded emails after working hours? Do you think that your expectations can cause stress for recipients?

At the 2016 Academy of Management annual meeting in Anaheim, California, on August 5-9, Dr. Liuba Belkin of Lehigh University, Dr. William Becker of Virginia Tech and Dr. Samantha A. Conroy of Colorado State University presented a study titled “Exhausted but Unable to Disconnect: The Impact of Email-related Organizational Expectations on Work-family Balance”, which was the first study showed that email-related expectations were a job stressor.

The authors conducted a survey of 385 participants from various industries and organizations. In the survey, main factors that authors wanted to measure included expectations of the company/organization, time spent of emails after hours, psychological separation from work during non-working hours, level of emotional exhaustion and perceptions of work-family balance.

In the digital age, accessibility to email gets easier than ever. The study showed that expectations of employers that emails are responded during non-work hours are the main reason that employees cannot separate from work both mentally and physically, resulting in a chronic stress and emotional exhaustion. Therefore, it can eventually affect the performance of employees. It is important to stress that it might not be the number of emails or the amount of time that employee spent on non-working hour emails, it might be the expectation to get those email responded during non-working hours. In fact, even when there are no emails, the norm of availability and the actual anticipation of work can still create the anticipatory stress. Work-life balance truly matters. Low satisfaction between work and personal life not only affects individual health and well-being, but also decreases job performance.

For managers, the study suggested organizational practices to protect employees in the long run by reducing pressure to reply emails after hours.

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