We're Getting More Afterwork Emails, And It's Messing With Our Minds

We never go anywhere without our smartphones and, for many of us, that means we're never TRULY off the clock.
Publish date:
March 23, 2015
smartphones, technology, anger, career, emails

Whether you love your job or loathe it, there is one thing that universally unites all employees: The dread that accompanies the ding announcing you just got an afterwork email or text from your boss. Sigh.

Lots of modern job realities are screwing with people’s happiness and job satisfaction--open office plans, increased workloads, ever-longer commute times--but nothing has had a more dramatic effect on sanity than smart phones.

No longer can you leave the office, head home, and not think about work again until the next day. In fact, since 2002 the number of employees that digitally check on work-related stuff in the evenings or on weekends has tripled, which is not surprising since BlackBerry (nicknamed CrackBerry at the time) hit critical mass in the U.S. around 2003.

In a January 2015 study that might make you think, Duh, researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington found that employees become angry when they receive work emails and texts after they’d gone home for the day. The worst feelings came when the email wasn’t just something to quickly read, but actually required the employee to spend time doing something, aka more work.

No shocker here: People showed more anger when emails came from a supervisor rather than a regular co-worker, because they felt compelled to stop and respond. Even if you have one of those “cool bosses” who says he or she doesn’t expect you to answer email over the weekend, it really sucks to know you have a message sitting in your inbox that has to be addressed at some point.

“When a manager talks about work-life balance, that talk feels empty when afterwork emails and texts arrive,” explains Art Markman, Ph.D., author of Smart Change: Five Tools to Create New and Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others. “They send a signal that you are expected to be checking email and texts all the time. And if they chastise people for not answering emails sent at night, they are rewarding a 24/7 mentality.”

Although this study may not be teaching you anything you didn’t already instinctively know, it’s important that research like this continues. Perhaps if a mountain of evidence piles up showing how a constant stream of emails and texts is messing with our heads, the tide will turn and bosses will stop bothering employees at night.

Or, if you’re feeling really ballsy, you could leave a copy of this article on your boss’s desk.

  • Do you get lots of afterwork emails and texts?
  • Does it piss you off?
  • Do you respond, or do you just say “screw it” and wait until the next day?

Photo: Shutterstock/Goran Djukanovic