The other day, when I was in one of those half-asleep modes where your mind goes on a weird walk or two, I had an irrational fear: Will I ever be able to escape my e-mail inbox, or will it be with me always, wherever I go, no matter what I’m doing? I mean, what if I’m on vacation, sitting before the ocean, having to spend all my time typing furiously on my iPad responding to e-mails about work?
Okay, I’m not really into sitting at beaches anyway, but maybe my fears aren’t so irrational. In fact, my half-dream reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about telepressure, a term defined by Northern Illinois University (NIU) organizational psychologists Larissa Barber and Alecia Santuzzi as “an urge to quickly respond to emails, texts and voicemails – regardless of whatever else is happening or whether one is even ‘at work.'”
In a feature posted by NIU, Dr. Barber — lead author (with Dr. Santuzzi) of a 2014 study on telepressure — explains what this means for our everyday lives:
“Workers who indicate they feel high levels of telepressure are more likely to report burnout, a feeling of being unfocused, health-related absenteeism and diminished sleep quality,” says NIU psychology professor Larissa Barber, lead author of a new study on workplace telepressure and its implications, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.
“Over the past few decades, we’ve seen organizations increasingly rely on email or text messages for conducting business,” Barber says. “The main benefit is that employees have lots of flexibility about when they can work, including at home.
“But this flexibility can sometimes have unintended costs,” she adds. “Employees start to feel like they should be available and responsive to work requests at all times. This type of continuous connection does not allow people enough time to recover from work.”
So…does this resonate with you? If you want to learn more, Drs. Barber and Santuzzi discuss the ramifications of telepressure in this snappy two-minute video: