Calls for stricter rules on work outside of office hours

by Tammy Buckley24 Oct 2014

Weekend work calls, out-of-hours skype conversations and checking work emails in bed may now be part of working life but experts warn it's damaging people's health.

A study of 57,000 people found that more than half worked outside their normal hours and that those who worked in the evenings and at weekends were more likely to complain of insomnia, headaches, fatigue, anxiety and stomach problems.

Muscular problems and cardiovascular issues were also linked to working outside of normal hours according to the German researchers who carried out the study.

And now the scientists, from the Society for Labour, Industrial and Organizational Psychological Research in Oldenburg, Germany, are calling for stricter rules to stop work invading people's home life as they argue recreational time completely free of work is essential to help the body recuperate.

In their findings, which were published in the journal Chronobiology International, they said technological advances have created an ‘always-on’ culture which in turn is ramping up pressure for people to be constantly available to work.

They 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 organisation, but probably also our patterns of social participation and integration.”

“Free time should be free time, otherwise it must be expected that it cannot fulfil functions of recovery and recuperation."

This is not the first time the burden of mobile working has been highlighted by research.

Research carried out by technology retailer Pixmania in 2012, found that access to a smartphone adds two hours to the working day.

Organisations and countries, however, are starting to take note and implement measures to ease the pressure on employees to always be “on”.

German car maker Daimler recently installed software on its 100,000 employees’ computers that automatically deletes emails if they are away on holiday while managers at Deutsche Telekom agreed to stop sending emails to staff during evenings, weekends and holidays.

France has introduced rules which safeguard people working in the digital and consultancy sectors from work email outside office hours and Germany's government is considering similar rules.

Lead author Dr Anna Arlinghaus, advised employers should start to look at how they can minimise their employees’ supplemental work.

‘It often needs to start at the top, with bosses taking the lead and attempting to change the culture at work,” she said.

COMMENTS

  • by Leonie 27/10/2014 11:20:17 AM

    Personally, I think it's impossible to be productive at work without a reasonable work/life balance in place. After all, we are human beings......not machines! (and even machines need maintenance to function at their optimum)

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