(NaturalNews) People who stay connected to their offices after work by means of phones, computers and tablets have more trouble recovering from workday stress, reducing their mental and physical health and placing more strain on their relationships, according to a series of studies conducted by Young Ah Park of Kansas State University.
Stress, including job stress, is associated with a wide array of chronic physical, mental and emotional health problems. Job stress that spills over into the family domain is particularly dangerous, Park said, because it can actually produce new sources of stress. For example, if one spouse is stressed due to something that happened at work, the other's mood may also be affected. One spouse being stressed may prevent either spouse from being able to recharge before the next work day begins.
"When people are really under stress their psychological and physical resources are drained, so they are less likely to self-regulate hostile behaviors and provide sufficient support for their spouse," Park said.
The most significant factor influencing people's ability to recover from job stress, Park has found, is how "plugged in" to work they stay while off the job.
"If there are any unpleasant text messages or emails from work-related people ... you may be more likely to ruminate about work-related issues or worries," Park said. "It will affect your feelings and behaviors at home, which could further influence people at home."
A growing problem
According to Park, staying constantly connected by means of computers and mobile devices has now become the norm in many professions.
"Competition in the workplace is getting fierce," Park said. "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."
But such dedication to the job can come at a price. Studies show that rates of fatigue and job burnout are significantly higher among employees who don't unplug from work activities while off the job, and levels of life satisfaction and positive emotions are lower. Such employees are also less engaged and less proactive in problem solving.
The most important way to recover from job stress is to set boundaries, Park said.
"If you have a strong technological boundary and self-restricted rules for using email, laptops or cellphones for work during off-work times, then you are more likely to experience psychological detachment from work."
The culture of certain workplaces can make this difficult, Park acknowledged. But even at workplaces where being in constant contact is the norm, employees can set rules for how and when they are willing to be contacted.
"Let your co-workers, supervisor or any work-related people know this is how you communicate outside work," Park said. "There may be times when employees have to be involved in work during non-work hours for urgent projects or work tasks, but it's still important that managers make sure employees have time to recover from stress after the work is done."