Using work-related electronic communication (WREC) outside of work hours is making office workers more tired and depressed, and it's affecting their sleep. Researchers suggest the ‘right to disconnect’ – the ability to stop working after hours - is especially important for office workers.
A study led by Dr. Hiroki Ikeda from Japan's National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health looked at how WREC during non-working hours affects the health of both office and home-based workers. The study involved about 100 IT workers, and it measured the duration of WREC use during non-work hours and asked about fatigue, depression, and sleepiness.
The study found that those working from home used WREC more frequently and for longer, but it didn't have a significant negative effect on them. However, for office-based workers, using WREC after hours made them more tired and depressed and more alert before bedtime.
Long video, email, and telephone use outside of work hours also had a negative impact on office workers.
The researchers believe working from home blurs the lines between work and personal life, and home-based workers might get used to using WREC after hours, reducing its negative effects. On the other hand, office workers may feel that out-of-hours WREC interrupts their personal life, leading to adverse effects.
Past studies have linked WREC use outside of work hours to various health problems with some jurisdictions introducing ‘right to disconnect’ rules to help workers disengage from work during non-working hours.
The researchers suggest introducing this right in the workplace, and they also recommend that managers and others avoid contacting workers after hours, even if such a policy is not in place.