German researchers studying the effects of people taking their work home with them at night or on weekends found that the workers were plagued by a host of issues, including cardiovascular problems, insomnia, headaches, muscular issues, fatigue, anxiety, and stomach problems, according to the Daily Mail. The study, published in the journal Chronobiology International, examined 57,000 people, more than half of whom worked past normal hours, largely driven by access to smartphones and computer tablets.
The researchers claim that the new advances in technology have prompted employers to expect their employees to be available at all hours, and asserted people’s bodies need purely recreational time to recover from work.
The authors, from the Society for Labour, Industrial and Organizational Psychological Research in Oldenburg, Germany, wrote:
Information and communication technologies, such as computers and smartphones… have the potential benefit and the potential inherent danger of making it possible for employees to be available any time and anywhere. This changes not only our work organization, but probably also our patterns of social participation and integration … Free time should be free time, otherwise it must be expected that it cannot fulfill functions of recovery and recuperation.
Lead author Dr Anna Arlinghaus said, “Our findings indicate that even a small amount of supplemental work beyond contractually agreed work hours can lead to health issues. The correlation is very strong.”
Technology retailer Pixmania did research in 2012 that showed if employees had smartphones, they worked two extra hours each day. The German study found that 90% of office workers have phones with email access, and one-third of those workers access their email over 20 times a day.
Last month, the German car maker Daimler installed software on its employees’ computers that deletes emails if the workers are on vacation; the company has 100,000 employees.
Daimler spokesman Oliver Wihofszki said: “The idea behind it is to give people break and let them rest. Then they can come back to work with a fresh spirit.”
At Deutsche Telekom, managers no longer send emails to staff outside of working hours; in 2011 Volkswagen announced that its servers would no longer send emails to employees’ BlackBerrys at night. In France, new laws have been instituted so that employees cannot receive emails after working hours; Germany is considering similar action.
“Employers should start to look at how they can minimise their employees’ supplemental work,” Arlinghaus said. “It often needs to start at the top, with bosses taking the lead and attempting to change the culture at work. Not every country will implement regulations like France, so companies should look to make improvements of their own accord.”