New study offers clues about why taking home work can lead to exhaustion
Do you regularly take work home with you? While watching your favorite television show, do you respond to company emails? On weekends, do you dial into the office to check voicemail?
If the above sounds familiar, you wouldn’t be alone. Today, it is almost expected that employees do some amount of job-related tasks at home.
But blurring the lines between work and personal time may negatively impact a person’s sense of well-being and lead to exhaustion.
This conclusion was reached by Ariane Wepfer of the University of Zurich in Switzerland who, along with several colleagues, conducted a study to investigate the impact of mixing work with personal time.
The findings have been published in Springer’s Journal of Business and Psychology.
For this study, 1916 workers that came from a wide range of sectors in German-speaking countries were asked to take part in an online survey.
The data reveals most were married (70.3 %) with an average age of 42 years old.
Half of the participants worked 40 hours per week – with 55.8% being men. Subjects were asked how well they could manage boundaries between work responsibilities and personal time.
For example, how frequently they took work home, the number of hours spent working on weekends and the amount of time spent thinking about work during time off.
As part of the study, participants were asked whether they made time to relax during non-working hours to socialize or engage in sports or other personal hobbies.
Additionally, subjects were assessed as to how diligently they made sure work did not intrude into their private lives.
In order to determine well-being, investigators considered the participants sense of physical and emotional exhaustion and sense of work-life balance.
Researchers discovered that employees who did not have a strong work-life balance were less likely to partake in activities that could help them relax and restore from career demands.
Moreover, they were more exhausted and experienced a lower sense of balance and well-being in various aspects of their lives.
“Employees who integrated work into their non-work life reported being more exhausted because they recovered less,” Wepfer explains. “This lack of recovery activities furthermore explains why people who integrate their work into the rest of their lives have a lower sense of well-being.”
Wepfer stresses that it is important to look at the findings through the lens of occupational health, the unique mechanisms behind them and factors that influence the degree in which work-life boundaries can be created.
It is her belief that companies need to have established policies and interventions to help their employees segment various aspects of their lives better.
In turn, this not only benefits workers but the company as a whole.
“Organizational policy and culture should be adjusted to help employees manage their work-non-work boundaries in a way that does not impair their well-being,” concludes Wepfer. “After all, impaired well-being goes hand in hand with reduced productivity and reduced creativity.”