September 14, 2018
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Stacy Doumas, M.D. contributes to topics such as Parenting, Women’s Health, Behavioral Health, .
By Katherine Lynch
Ding ding. Your stomach drops and anxiety kicks in – you know the feeling. Your phone just alerted you that you have received a new email. Classic conditioning. Pavlov would be proud.
Our productivity-driven work culture has us jumping at every sound, stimulus, bell, jingle, tone and vibration, part of a compulsive workforce that does not know how to disconnect. But does this diehard dedication to maximum output come at a cost?
Many studies have shown the detrimental impact that emailing and working after work hours can have on an individual and their relationships. Stacy Doumas, M.D., Residency program director & vice chair of Education in the Department of Psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, offers her take on this practice and if it is harmful to your mental and physical health.
Culture of Expectation
Sharing an example from her own life – Dr. Doumas recounts a recent vacation during which – due to security restrictions – she was unable to access her emails. Although she was not expected to answer emails and her leaders were aware she was out, she says she still felt anxiety.
“Today, we are part of a work culture where we feel we need to be connected. Once you’re part of that culture, you don’t even realize the impact it can have on you,” says Doumas. “And beyond your personal convictions to feel connected, often times employers can set an expectation that you must be available. Whether it’s spoken, or unspoken, it can increase anxiety. It’s even worse if it is not clear – employers need to communicate ahead of time before hiring someone what those expectations are going to be.”
Impact on Relationships
As if this self-inflicted anxiety isn’t bad enough, working and emailing after hours can prove toxic to our love life and relationships as well.
“Work-life balance becomes difficult to manage when you’re not in work, but still doing work activities,” shares Doumas. “The spouse may realize more than the partner who’s doing the work. It can be more obvious to them because the employee involved might take comfort in feeling connected, particularly if they think it’s an expectation.”
“This can put a lot of strain on families, because it can make it hard for the employee to devote themselves fully to the things they have to do during non-work hours,” she adds.
Research shows that working after hours, or more than 40 hours a week, can impact us physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Some of the findings include an increased risk in cardiovascular issues, increased depression risk and increased stress. An increase in stress can also translate to weight gain, difficulty sleeping and higher blood pressure.
Those who are working extra hours and find themselves fatigued, may turn to alcohol or tobacco consumption as a means to relax, which can lead to many other health related issues.
“Your work will still be there when you check in tomorrow. Enjoy time with your family, be present in the moment, practice mindfulness, and fully enjoy the other activities and parts of your life,” says Doumas. “It’s most important that you find an appropriate work-life balance that works for you. If that means setting specific time restrictions or limits on how many times you check your email, that is a great way to start. If you’re used to having that constant connection you may need to wean off of checking in,” recalled Doumas.
If you are experiencing any mental or emotional health issues, our experienced team, which includes skilled professionals and distinguished psychiatrists can provide resources, assistance and relief. You can find out more information by visiting, HackensackMeridianHealth.org/Behavioral-Health.
The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.