Work for Psychology Today
Technology is one reason why employees may not detach from work.
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So it seems that there are some real pressures on many of us not to detach from work, especially if we want to get ahead in our careers. Consider, though, the cost of not detaching. Research has shown that when people do not regularly detach from work, there is a very real cost in terms of the depletion of mental and physical energy (Ten Brummelhuis & Bakker, 2012). There is also a more subtle, and perhaps in the long run a more important, cost. When we are constantly thinking about work, checking e-mail, and taking work-related phone calls, we are really detaching from those around us, such as family and friends. Obviously there are times when it is necessary for work to intrude on our personal lives, and most of the time important people in our lives understand, but if we constantly do this it may destroy important relationships—relationships that we may not be able to repair. Finally, we can also look at the failure to detach from a purely economic standpoint. Consider, for example, a person who works 5 extra hours a week checking e-mail at home. If that person earns $10 per hour he or she is giving the employer an extra $50 per week, and over the course of a year, an extra $2, 500. In fact, working extra hours from home raises important legal questions. (This topic is explored further in a recent article from The Wall Street Journal.)
So it’s been shown that detachment from work is healthy, and one of the major keys to thriving under stressful working conditions. So how do you detach? Researchers have examined many strategies, including learning new things, taking up a hobby, reading for pleasure, and exercising (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007). Also, given the way technology often seems to tie us to work, it might be a good idea to occasionally “unplug” and get away from the electronic gadgets. Another way to look at detachment from work is that it really involves being fully engaged in other aspects of our lives when we’re not at work. When we’re reading a newspaper article about events in other parts of the world, really focus on the issues involved. When we’re talking to our child about what they’re doing in school, ask them questions.