Why You Should Not Check Your Emails on Holidays

Checking work emails after working hours may affect your mental health, and your relationship says a study

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Are you glued to your phone to keep an eye on office chats even on holidays? Do you switch off your phone once you’re home?


Well, you’re not alone. Working while on holidays has become a new norm, says a study by UK-based The Institute of Leadership & Management released on August 13. The study says that two-thirds of business leaders check their work emails while on a holiday. It found that 65 per cent of respondents check their work emails at some point while on holiday, and 75 per cent took or made a work call while on leave. Over 81 per cent senior leadership teams check their emails on holiday, it says.

Despite the high number of business leaders keeping an eye on work while on leave, 96 per cent of bosses don’t expect their staff to check emails when they’re on holiday, says the study. “In fact, 64 per cent actively try to encourage staff to switch off completely from work, while 32 per cent would take a more relaxed approach,” the research reads.

Kate Cooper, the head of research, policy and standards, at The Institute of Leadership & Management, says, “Thanks to modern technology we’re all more connected to our places of work than ever before. This means work-life boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred and we’ve become an ‘always present’ generation of workers.”

She adds that checking into work while on leave has become increasingly common. “Some people may find the stress of being disconnected from work while they’re on holiday more stressful than keeping an eye on what’s going on – if only to rest easy that everything’s okay back at base. But we still know people need holidays, so they can return refreshed and invigorated,” says Cooper.

‘No work During Home Hours’

While few companies like Get Organised, a Dublin-based business consultant, have banned emailing after working hours to maintain employees’ work-life balance and boost their productivity, many companies are still struggling with corporate email policies. Some firms have also adopted practices like putting their emails on automatic response when they’re on holidays.

Recently, global e-commerce giant, Amazon, made an effort to motivate its workforce to establish the work-life balance.

In an email, Amazon India head Amit Agarwal asked his employees to allocate enough time for themselves apart from work and maintain a healthy “work-life harmony”. He has asked them to leave themselves enough time to spend at home after the working hours, and encouraged them to stop taking work-related calls and emails after hours. He specifically mentioned that, “No business decision should be made between 6 pm and 8 am.”

David Reile, who is the executive coach of Career Development Alliance, based in US, says after work hours office activities affect productivity of employees. Giving his holistic view on it, he says, “Most people are tend to be in a social or family mood when they’re out of office, hence, it can take longer to get into a work mindset when not at work.”  

“Additionally, fatigue is always a factor in after hour productivity both mentally and physically,” he adds. Explaining about opinion he says, “A person who responds to an email at 6:00pm may be more productive than a person who responds at 11:00 pm. Further, the more a person works after hours, the less productive they will be during regular work hours because of increased fatigue.”

Hazards of Working at Home

A study by the Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings says that work emails could affect mental health if they’re expected to check them even when not on the clock. The study says also say that it will not only affect an employee’s health but also their partner’s.

For the study, researchers surveyed 142 people in US who were employed full-time, as well as their significant others, about their organizations’ expectations around electronic communications. The couples answered questions about their health, well-being and relationship satisfaction. About 100 of these individuals’ managers also answered survey questions, adding to conclusions about organizational expectations.

Cooper of Institute of Leadership & Management says good management is about identifying what environments and working practices will help you get the best out of each individual. “If your team wants to stay in touch with work while they’re supposed to be on holiday because it works best for them, then maybe that should be considered another element of the flexible working you offer,” she adds.