For many millennials, the 9-5 grind doesn’t end at 5 p.m. — or even long after that. The world of work is changing to be more flexible, but that can mean that the boundaries between work hours and time off can become porous. A 2019 survey by Adobe found that 36% of millennials will check their work emails while unwinding at night — but what does that end up doing to your brain?. Experts tell Bustle that while it may be tempting to just dip into your work email and respond to a few requests while watching Netflix, it may actually be damaging to your health. Work-life balance is an important component of wellbeing, and the pressure to answer emails or calls at night can have a negative impact on your psychological and physical state.
After-hours emails can affect your relationships with others, mental health counselor Heidi McBain tells Bustle. “This practice can take away from your connection with the people around you. It can make them feel less important if you are focusing on work on your off hours and not on them, which can adversely effect your relationships.” Meaningful relationships are a necessary part of a healthy life; a Harvard study that has been going for 80 years has found that people with strong connections to those around them have better health outcomes and live longer than those who are more isolated. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too,” the lead author of the study, Robert Waldinger, told The Harvard Gazette in 2017.
Even the expectation of being available after work can place strain on these relationships and create adverse health effects, according to a study published in Academy of Management Proceedings in 2018. The study looked at 142 full-time employees and their significant others, and found that people who thought they needed to be on-call all the time — even if they didn’t actually have to answer any emails — showed decreases in their wellbeing and their marital happiness over time.