We are becoming more and more aware of the importance of a healthy work-life balance. However, of all the things that might be corrupting that balance, it is unlikely you will have considered checking emails out of work hours to be one of them.
New research taken out by My Own Stationery has discovered that those of us who read and respond to work emails on our commute face significantly more stress as a result.
Perhaps you think it is not that big of an issue?
However, over three-quarters of the people asked in this study admitted to engaging with work emails and communications while on public transport. They also unanimously agreed to this considerably impacting their stress levels.
Why do we check our emails on our commute?
This problem, when you sit back and look at it, is not that surprising.
The workplace is now much more fluid, with more people able to work remotely and deal with issues when ‘out of hours’ due to our increasing connectedness and constant upgrades in the applications of our devices.
How many faces are illuminated by phone screens on your commute? Many, right?
So, why do we do it?
First of all, flicking through all of your device applications is a habit. It is now a widely known routine; check all apps for new notifications regardless of how long your last sweep was. It is just something to do. So, of course, you will eventually stumble into a stressful e-mail or message.
However, the most common reasons for engaging with email on the commute were down to people wishing to get a head start on their work. In fact, this was the reason given by 68% of people.
Nearly a tenth of people insisted that they were too busy to engage in work correspondence once they were officially at work. Most worryingly though, is that around a quarter of people said that this was the expectation. It was not their own choice.
Such a trend is concerning, as it reflects an attitude pushed onto employees by employers; a work ethic that has seen a significant rise in stress and burnout among professionals in the UK.
The main reason for this burnout is the overload and pressure put upon people through constant connection to the workplace, wherever they are. The lines between work and leisure are considerably more blurred than they used to be, and our work-life balances are becoming much more difficult to stabilize.
How stressful is this habit?
This issue is getting recognition throughout the world; so significant is its impact on mental health and business productivity.
For example, the French government has now banned any engagement with work emails after 6 pm, legislation that is being seriously considered by some other business-dense locations, New York, for example.
But how much does this raise your stress levels?
Well, if we look back at the survey, those people who admitted regular engagement with work emails during their commute reported an average stress level of 9/10.
In comparison, 24% of people who said they rarely dealt with e-mails on their way to work had an average stress level of 2/10—a staggering difference that makes a strong case for breaking the trend.
Why should this behavior be changed?
As fantastic as around the clock connectivity is, it should never be taken advantage of by employers and businesses. Not only does it hike the stress levels of their employees way up, but it also hinders the productivity of a company, as opposed to the productivity optimization they strive to achieve!
The problem here, as you may have surmised, is a matter of balance. The human brain needs rest to function effectively and economically when heightened concentration is necessary.
By engaging with work-related tasks out of work hours, you are both extending the time for which your brain must concentrate on high-stress matters and taking away time when you should be relaxing and readying yourself for the day ahead.
Checking your emails, in a nutshell, forces you to spread your energy and brainpower to thinly. This also means that when you are actually at work the quality of what you can offer, and the level of productivity you can reach for the day, is not at as high a level as if you had taken a little time for self-care in advance.
If you ban yourself from emails on the commute, you will see your stress decrease, and your workplace productivity increases. That is a fact!
What should you be doing on your commute instead?
The key is to relax. It is as simple as that. The study shows that the majority of us neither take the time to ready ourselves for work nor allow ourselves time to decompress after 8 hours of graft. The commute, if you use public transport, is stressful enough already.
Don’t add to this with work issues as well! Find a way to try and relax, to go into your world and take some time for yourself. In London, the average commute takes around 1 hour from door-to-door. That is 2 hours a day that you could be used to look after yourself.
There are very few people who don’t love music. At a base level music makes us happy, if you fill your body with positive endorphins from listening to your favorite track on repeat, do it! It will springboard you into the day with positivity!
Other than emotional nourishment, music also improves our memory, our ability to learn and our attention span.
These are growing in popularity. It is a way of engaging in something that interests you without requiring you to waste concentration, as you might do by reading an article or dense text.
3) Meditation or Mindfulness
Mindfulness practices improve our ability to do away with the noise in our heads. By practicing it regularly, you can find real clarity and mental presence. There are many meditations and mindful practices out there that you can do anywhere, anytime.
There is nothing like shutting out the real world and getting lost in a fantasy. The literature market has never been more healthy and exciting; there is something out there for everyone. Hey, if you don’t fancy words, why not try a graphic novel!
Try one of these out and break the habit of emailing during the commute. See your mood soar, your stress plummets, and your work-life balance falls into place.