Veterinary employees and managers often check their work e-mail addresses at home—and respond to work-related calls and texts off duty—thinking it's a great way to balance work and family life. A new study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior suggests they might want to change their ways. The health effects differ for men and women, but using work technologies at home puts a huge strain on workers' health.
Using data from a national survey of American workers, University of Toronto researchers asked study participants how often they were contacted outside the workplace by phone, e-mail, or text about work-related matters. They found that women who were contacted frequently by supervisors, coworkers, or clients reported higher levels of psychological distress. In contrast, men who received frequent work-related contact outside of normal work hours were less affected by it.
Researchers thought women were more distressed by frequent work contact because it interfered with their family responsibilities more so than men, but this wasn't the case. They found that women are able to juggle their work and family lives just as well as men, but they feel guilty as a result of being contacted. This guilt seems to be at the heart of their distress, researchers said. The findings show that many women feel guilty dealing with work issues at home—even when the work-related contact doesn’t interfere with their family lives. Men, on the other hand, are less likely to experience guilt when responding to work-related issues at home.
The findings suggest that men and women may encounter different expectations over the boundaries separating work and family life. So the next time you start revving up your work e-mail at home, it might be best to step away from the computer.