Separate work from home to recover from job stress
Detaching from work — mentally, physically and electronically — is necessary to recover from job stress during nonwork hours, according to a Kansas State University researcher.
YoungAh Park, assistant professor of psychology and former businesswoman in the competitive South Korean workforce, has researched the stress crossover phenomenon between working couples, work-family boundary management and processes of work stress and recovery from stress.
She noted that staying connected to work through smartphones, tablets or laptops has become the norm, although being plugged in allows work-related issues to spill over to the family domain and disrupts recovery from job stress.
“Competition in the workplace is getting fierce. People may worry about job security, want to increase their salary or advance in their career, so they feel they have to be more dedicated to their work. They show that by being available outside of normal work hours through communication and information technologies,” Park said.
Checking work emails using a smartphone or tablet outside normal work hours can be beneficial for catching up with work, but it can also lead to work-related stress that spills over to the home.
According to Park, if one spouse is experiencing work stress, it can affect the other spouse. If both are stressed from work and neither is able to use the home as a place to recharge for the next day, the stress can build up at home rather than decrease.
People who are able to unplug from work activities when off the job experience lower levels of fatigue and job burnout, Park said.
They also have higher levels of positive emotions and life satisfaction than those who remain connected to work-related tasks and matters outside of normal work hours, the researcher added.
The preference for separating work from home or family life may not be easy if a co-worker or boss do not do the same. Bringing work home or contacting work-related people outside normal work hours can affect other employees’ work-home boundary management and practices, Park said.
To create a good work-life balance, Park recommends setting self-regulated rules for use of communication and information technologies for work during nonwork time.
Moreover, a company benefits if workers return to work refreshed and de-stressed.
“Research has shown that employees who unwind from work stress during off-work times are better at showing proactive behaviors to solve problems and are more engaged in their work,” Park said.
“In the long term, ensuring employee recovery from job stress by detaching themselves from work is beneficial for sustaining employees’ well-being and job performance capabilities,” he added.