I've long suggested that there are limits to how much work people will take on to the exclusion of enjoying the fruits of their labors.  But if less stressful working lives are not purely an emergent phenomenon, perhaps the knowledge that being on call all the time is bad for your health will change a few minds.  There's even a new term of art, telepressure, and Northern Illinois psychology professor Larissa Barber estimates the unintended and unanticipated consequences.
“Over the past few decades, we’ve seen organizations increasingly rely on email or text messages for conducting business,” Barber says. “The main benefit is that employees have lots of flexibility about when they can work, including at home.

“But this flexibility can sometimes have unintended costs,” she adds. “Employees start to feel like they should be available and responsive to work requests at all times. This type of continuous connection does not allow people enough time to recover from work.”
Reason suggests that there is grant money available from the German government for such research.
European labor unions, in particular, have raised concerns about the time spent by employees answering work emails outside of traditional working hours. This has prompted the German government to commission a study assessing the economic and psychological cost of workplace stress, with possible legislation to follow.
Their suggestion: avoid one-size-fits-all legislation. I think, though, that there are ways for professionals, customers, and labor organizations to distinguish genuine emergencies from ordinary annoyances.  Physicians and plumbers understand what it means to be on call, and can set up duty rosters accordingly.  The deputy assistant-to that is crashing on a presentation at the last minute might benefit from the occasional "Give it a rest" or an electronic mail languishing until the next morning.

Thus, dear reader, if you have to deal with colleagues whose greeting is more often "did you get my e-mail" than "How about those Packers," print off  the description of the study, or the abstract of the study, and distribute it to those people.

No comments: