Study calls time on stressful out-of-hours intrusions


A new study confirms that managers contacting remote working employees out of hours is causing extra job stress and calls for policies and laws to protect employees from these increasingly common "out-of-hours intrusions".

The collaborative study by researchers in the US, Australia and Europe surveyed 896 Americans in a range of blue-collar and white-collar jobs including administration, communications, finance and insurance roles in the healthcare sector as well as construction workers, plumbers and electricians.

Respondents reported higher stress levels and depressive moods associated with managers contacting them or requesting responses after work hours.

One of the researchers from RMIT University in Australia, Professor Mayowa Babalola, says that while COVID disruptions sold many of us the illusion of freedom in working from home and flexible work hours, these results reveal the opposite.

"Borderless workplaces are giving managers 24/7 access to employees where constant connectivity with managers is an expectation rather than an option," said Babalola.

"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 said unnecessary and non-urgent intrusions by managers need to be managed if they want to avoid employees burning out.

"With more people working from home and more flexible hours, employers and employees need to introduce mechanisms and boundaries to cope with the intrusion of work into their home domains."

Professor Mayowa Babalola smiles at the camera wearing a light brown suit jacket and orange topProfessor Mayowa Babalola is calling on out-of-hour employee-manager boundaries to be drawn. Photo: RMIT

Managers need to think before hitting send

Babalola said one way for managers to avoid imposing this stress on their teams was to simply take the perspective of those they're sending messages to.

"This approach can be as simple a scheduling messages for the next day or making it very clear the receiver of the message is not expected to read or respond outside of their agreed work hours."

The research team is also calling for corporate policies and laws to protect workers from out-of-hours contact and deter managers from contacting their employees at certain times.

"Calling for these boundaries is easier said than done, so there needs to have formal rules in place to ensure managers are respecting their employee's personal time.

"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."

Story by: Katie Comas

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