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Ban on out-of-office emails 'could be harmful to some staff'

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Company bans on out-of-hours emails could be harmful to workers with high levels anxiety, research suggests.

A study by the University of Essex found that while preventing employees from accessing their emails after office hours could help some to “switch off” outside of work, others may be prevented from achieving work goals, which could cause stress.

Major firms such as Volkswagen and Daimler have recently taken steps to minimise after-hours work communication, in an attempt to reduce employee burnout, which now effects more than half of all British employees.

READ MORE: How to beat burnout before it kicks in

French workers won the “right to disconnect” in March, when a law requiring companies with more than 50 employees to establish times that employees should not send or receive emails, went into effect. A similar law was proposed in New York City, earlier this year.

However, an outright ban on employees sending emails after office hours could be counter-productive, as a growing accumulation of emails could cause some workers to feel even more overloaded, the researchers found.

Dr Emma Russell, who led the study, advised against a one-size-fits-all approach, stating that companies should “personalise work-email action” according to the needs of individuals.

READ MORE: Online searches for “burnout” have skyrocketed 50% since April

“This policy would be unlikely to be welcomed by employees who prioritise work-performance goals and who would prefer to attend to work outside of hours if it helps them get their tasks completed,” Russell said.

“People need to deal with email in the way that suits their personality and their goal priorities in order to feel like they are adequately managing their workload. When people do this, these actions can become relatively habitual, which is more efficient for their work practices.”

Human resources company the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) told the BBC it agreed with the university’s findings.