The majority of employees feel pressure to respond to work-related messages at all times, according to a report from Bupa.
The research found that three-quarters (75%) of the 1,099 British employees surveyed felt under pressure to respond to emails outside of work hours.
A quarter (24%) said that work controls their life, and 23% were worried that work was causing them to neglect friendships. A third (33%) said that they still check their emails when they're on sick leave.
Losing access to emails was found to be a cause of anxiety for some. Nearly half (43%) of those aged 16 to 24 said they felt stressed if they could not access their work emails. Older generations were less concerned; only one in five (22%) of those between 45 and 54 said they felt uneasy without access.
Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director for mental health at Bupa UK, warned technology could be having an impact on employees' health. “Like our mobile devices, if we don’t get the opportunity to recharge we cannot work – at least not very well,” he said. “Technology has transformed the workplace and we no longer need to be at our desks to get the job done. However, working remotely means that the majority of us allow work to encroach on our home life.
“It is important that employees who feel ruled by their inbox are encouraged and feel empowered to take a break as a sustained feeling that you are not in control of your life can lead to stress, exhaustion, anxiety and depression.”
Sue Evans, head of HR and OD for Warwickshire County Council, said that the results of the report were a cause for concern. "In this highly-connected world we are more in touch than ever, constantly in contact and potentially on-call constantly," she told HR magazine. "This has real benefits – keeping in touch with friends has never been easier, keeping tabs on the children (and possibly the partner too!) can be reassuring."
She continued: "But there is a downside: the pressure to respond instantly. Flexible working will mean constantly working if we don't manage technology sensibly and take control for ourselves. Expectations need to be managed if we are to develop a distinction between working and personal time.
"We need to relearn how to connect with the real world, put down the gadgets and be present for the human interaction that keeps us sane. Technology is a tool but also an instrument of torture. Let's be careful how we use it and never, ever forget that human interaction sustains us and determines our civilisation. Balance and moderation are key. It's a hard lesson but, in the interests of our mental health, one we must learn – and teach our children."