If you are taking time off around the New Year, or anytime really, do yourself (and your colleagues and your family) a favor and really take time off. As in, don’t compulsively check work email. More and more research is confirming the obvious—that the convenience of our 24/7 connectivity comes at a cost.
A study by the American Public Library of Science found that when people work 11-plus hours a day, they become more than two and a half times more prone to symptoms of severe depression than those who keep their hours in the 8-hours/day range. And according to a recent Gallop poll, this means there are plenty of Americans at risk: the average U.S. workweek stretched 47 hours, far outpacing the annual average in Germany (39 hours) and France (37 hours), the poll found.
This “always on” mentality has a ripple effect as well. The expectation to monitor work email after-hours or while taking time off leads to increased anxiety levels and stress-related health issues not only in the employees but in their family and significant others, reports researchers from Virginia Tech, Lehigh University and Colorado State University. The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that when employees are always “on” and presumed available even when not on the clock, they can’t adequately recover from the workday and become even more stressed when returning to the office. Obviously, not a recipe for peak performance.
So make the most of your holiday or vacation time and spend it with your loved ones, doing things that relax and energize you. Your laptop and cell phone may need to be plugged in to recharge, but we humans, it seems, recharge much more efficiently when we unplug.