There's a very good chance you obsessively check and immediately respond to your work emails.
In fact, our constantly connected society tends to think of the ideal worker as being always "on". The average worker spends 28 percent of the workday dealing with email. But a 2013 survey found that 81 percent of U.S. employees check their email outside of work, with more than a third saying they check their work email several times a day outside of work hours. A third of respondents also said that they usually respond to emails within 15 minutes.
Researchers recently coined a term for this urge to immediately respond to emails and engage in obsessive thoughts about returning an email to one's boss, colleagues or clients: "workplace telepressure." They found that telepressure is not only a major cause of stress at work, it's also a health hazard. The research, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, found that a fixation on work email can contribute to physical and mental burnout.
The researchers asked 300 workers to report how often they responded to email on workdays, as well as weekends, vacation days and sick days. They also looked at the response times of some of the workers' recent emails and asked them various questions about their well-being and workplace dynamics.
Workers who experienced high levels of telepressure were more likely to agree with statements assessing burnout, like "I have no energy for going to work in the morning," and reported feeling fatigued and unfocused. Telepressure was also correlated with sleeping poorly and missing work. Employees' levels of telepressure, the researchers found, seemed to be largely predicted by workplace norms and expectations.
The findings suggest that constantly checking work email may not be healthy nor productive -- and that encouraging employees to unplug (or even enacting no-email-after-hours policies) could benefit both the well-being of the workforce and the company's bottom line.