Many workers today remember a period 20 years ago when email and the Internet were just being introduced to the mainstream. Back then, businesses that had websites and email addresses were ahead of the curve. Today, just a couple short decades later, these things have become essential and commonplace.
In fact, it's nearly impossible to imagine any company today being successful without email, which can make it all the more counterintuitive to think that this essential tool may also be one of the biggest productivity busters around. Of course, nobody is expecting you to eliminate email from your business. But here are a few interesting things to keep in mind to balance productivity with burnout.
A place for everything
One of the most appealing aspects of email is its instantaneous nature. Emails make it possible to communicate almost in real time with anyone around the globe, so naturally this is a feature that businesses have adapted to over the years. It's not uncommon for employees to have Web-connected devices such as smartphones and tablets that enable them to check their work emails from anywhere – the dinner table, a family reunion or even a date night.
Resist the urge to view this as a sign of productivity. In fact, according to TIME magazine, the opposite is true. The source indicated that 52 percent of Americans check their email before or after work – and some even while home sick. This "always-on" mentality has been identified as a key ingredient in burnout. While it's useful to take advantage of the productivity email allows, be sure to dissuade your workers from overdoing it.
Stress booster versus stress buster
Increased availability and productivity are supposed to reduce stress in the workforce, yet experts are finding the opposite is actually true. In fact, even the expectation of being available is enough to increase physical stress responses. TIME reported one study that found that employees who were expected to be reachable via email showed elevated levels of cortisol – commonly known as the stress hormone – in their blood.
Despite the fact that working during leisure or other "down" time has continually been shown to be bad for psychological well-being, Americans constantly struggle with their need to literally overdo it at the office.
Breaking these bad habits may be a matter of overhauling company culture with policy decisions. HR services can play a crucial role in this, as professionals at PEO companies and other HR outsourcing firms can balance your needs as a business owner with the considerations of your workforce.