The rise of telepressuring: time to put down the phone?

A new study by a US university has shown that workers are feeling increasingly pressured to correspond with colleagues outside of working hours, leading to decreased engagement and poor health.

Stress costs Australian organisations a whopping $10 billion per year – and we could all be culprits of stressing out our colleagues or employees, says a new study.

Advances in technology have enabled us to connect with anyone, anywhere – be they friends, family or co-workers.

But this comes at a price – new research conducted by the Northern Illinois University School of Psychology shows that our constant connection to colleagues around the globe and around the clock is unhealthy.

According to the research, high levels of connectivity impose a feeling of obligation upon us to respond to work emails no matter where we are, which can take its toll on our health, having a bad impact on productivity in the long run.

The authors of the study call this ‘telepressure’, and said that it results in an urge to respond to messages instantaneously, which makes workers more likely to suffer burnout, absenteeism and sleep deprivation.

Larissa Barber, lead author of the study, told Time that telepressuring employees can heavily diminish their engagement and performance.

“It's like your to-do list is piling up, so you're cognitively ruminating over these things in the evening and re-exposing yourself to workplace stressors,” she told Time. “When people don't have this recovery time, it switches them into an exhaustion state, so they go to work the next day not being engaged.”

HC spoke to Jono Nicholas, CEO of, about the impact of telepressure.

“Mobile technology keeps us all connected, so it is not uncommon to receive emails and calls that need immediate response outside of working hours,” said Nicholas.  “While certain jobs demand this, it is important that we all have a healthy life balance. Stress related directly to ‘telepressure’ can result in withdrawal, disengagement, and exhaustion. Many of these, if left unaddressed, can escalate into anxiety, depression, or compulsive behaviour, and some people will reach for alcohol and other substances to control their feelings.”

Nicholas emphasised the effect that telepressure has on young people.

“Many young Australians between the ages of 18 and 25 have heightened levels of anxiety due to the tenuous starts of their employment,” he told HC. “In addition, young people are now very tech savvy having, and are prone to check their phone regularly, regardless of the time. This means that they most likely respond to emails after hours and some tend to believe this is a norm.”

Nicholas shared some tips with HC that employers can follow to reduce work-related stress and illness:
  • Be clear about your company’s attitude and expectations around the use of mobile technology and work-related activities
  • Check in with employees regularly and ask them how they are. Improving communication with your employees can help reduce stress levels. Share information with them and remember to acknowledge their hard work and contribution. Praise good work performance verbally & officially – this will reinstate a sense of job security.
  • Ask employees how they are coping with the work load and if they need support
  • Encourage employees to take a break, perhaps go for a walk, go out for lunch or even exercise during their lunch break. Encourage workers to finish early or come in later the next day when they have been working overtime on a project
  • Advise employees that they are not obligated to respond to emails and calls outside of work hours and that non-urgent matters can be handled the following day
Barber believes that rising demands for immediate access to information and answers has led us all to being guilty of telepressuring.

“We all get kind of used to that immediate gratification of getting fast responses and having those communications that are complete,” Barber told Time. “We all like it when other people are telepressured, because it helps us complete our tasks faster.”

Should we all be a little less relentless in our telepressuring of others?

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