After-hours intrusions lead to higher stress levels, depressive moods: report

Calls strengthen for 'right to disconnect' laws to be passed across the world

After-hours intrusions lead to higher stress levels, depressive moods: report

Contacting remote employees after work hours is triggering extra levels of stress and depressive moods, according to a new study.

The study, which was a collaboration among US, Australian, and European researchers, surveyed 896 Americans across various sectors to determine the impact of after-work intrusions.

These intrusions could include emails late at night or instant messages received after work hours.

"On days where managers intruded, employees reported high levels of job tension, work stress, and they reported high levels of depressive symptoms," Professor Mayowa Babalola from RMIT University told The New Daily.

Babalola, one of the researchers of the study, said this comes as the pandemic introduced flexible work arrangements, which led to connectivity becoming "an expectation rather than an option."

"We found many are realising that the constant ping of Teams and late-night emails are bringing work stress and depressive symptoms into their personal lives," Babalola told RMIT in another interview.

Formal boundaries needed

The study validates what many employees have been experiencing following the emergence of remote and hybrid workplaces. To address the problem, managers are urged to schedule their messages for the next day or make it clear in their message that a response is not expected outside of agreed work hours.

Employers and employees also need to "introduce mechanisms and boundaries" as many workers remain under fully remote or hybrid work arrangements.

These "formal rules" need to be implemented to ensure managers are respecting professional and personal boundaries, according to the study's research team.

"While working from home and flexible work hours can have many benefits, a line needs to be drawn so we can completely switch off from the stresses of work and recharge," Babalola said as quoted by RMIT.

In Australia, the Greens recently proposed a "Right to Disconnect" Bill that aims to prohibit employees from "contacting employees outside work hours."

It also seeks to ensure that employees are not required to monitor, read, or respond to emails, telephone calls, or any other kinds of communication from an employer outside their working hours.

Similar laws have been gaining momentum across the world as well, as employees express support to such legislation. A SkyNova report released last year revealed that 63.3% of employees want a law passed to prevent their bosses from contacting them outside work hours.

Portugal is among the nations already implementing a law on this, with employers banned to contact staff outside work hours. In Canada, the province of Ontario also passed a similar legislation in 2021.

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