Thanks to technology, a lot of us are “on” all the time—we text people while we are with other people, we charge our phones by our heads at night, and for a lot of us, we never escape our email inboxes.
They follow us on our commute home, they ping us while we’re eating dinner with friends or family, they beckon us to check them even on vacation.
It’s inevitable, and I wouldn’t say having the convenience of a smartphone is a bad thing—but always responding to it is.
And I’ve got the science to prove it (finally!): Based on a recent Health article titled “What Being Expected to Check Email After Work Does to Your Health,” studies show that checking your email—just checking it!—outside of work is linked to stress, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion.
You might be thinking, How can one small habit be so detrimental to my health? It’s not like I’m actually doing anything. But over time, this kind of expectation to always be available can lead to mental and physical burnout, depression, and decreased productivity (now isn’t that counterproductive?).
What makes this study so interesting is that the act of receiving or checking your email doesn’t affect work-life balance as much as the anticipation of getting a message does does: Basically, if you’re constantly aware that your phone is on and waiting for you, this in itself creates stress.
So, the solution? Since ignoring your inbox entirely probably isn’t the best move for your career, you should talk to your boss about expectations. Which messages are urgent? Which are not? Is it ever OK to turn your email off on a weeknight (a.k.a., temporarily removing the app from your main menu). Or, how would he or she feeling about setting a personalized out of office message for weekends.
It may not be easy to take yourself offline, and it may not be easy to even bring this up your manager, but it’ll be worth it later on down the road.