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Science Confirms Your Manager's Demand for After-Work Availability Is Damaging Your Health

Simply feeling like you MUST be monitoring your work inbox outside of your regular office hours may be negatively impacting your health, according to a new study.

Researchers from Virginia Tech University, Lehigh University, and Colorado State University have found that even if you don't actually do after-hours work, just the expectation from your boss that you should may trigger anxiety.

Previous studies have suggested that being so overloaded with job stuff that it spills into family time—to the point that you can't focus on your loved ones at home—leads to strain and conflict in your relationships. But the new research seems to indicate that just the feeling you should be doing work at home can hurt your ties with family too.

William Becker, a Virginia Tech associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business and study co-author, said the findings, which will be presented at the Academy of Management annual meeting in Chicago in August, reveal the subtle but harmful thing that goes on in organizational cultures where employees are expected to always be on. "'Flexible work boundaries' often turn into 'work without boundaries,' compromising an employee's and their family's health and well-being," he said.

He added that workplaces that expect employees to be available outside of their regular hours make juggling work and family even more difficult. "Employer expectations during non-work hours appear to increase this burden, as employees feel an obligation to shift roles throughout their non-work time," Becker said.

Based on the study results, Becker recommends employers put forth policies that reduce their expectations workers will check their email outside work hours, or establish boundaries detailing when electronic communication outside of work hours is off limits.

And for employees who work for managers who expect them to be tuned in all the time, Becker advises them to practice mindfulness, so they can be present in family interactions. This, in turn, would help cut down on conflict and make them happier in their relationships.

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