The impact of e-mail on work-life balance

2014-06-12T10:19:26Z (GMT) by Aaron D. Waller Gillian Ragsdell
Purpose – This paper aims to illustrate how a company's current 24-hour e-mail culture impacts on employees' lives outside of their contracted working hours. There are two objectives of the study – first, to calculate the average time spent on work e-mails by employees per day outside of working hours and, second, to identify what impact e-mail had on employees' work-life balance by addressing three research questions. These questions aims to focus on the relationships between: employees' thoughts about company culture and their belief that their work is dependent on them checking their e-mails outside of working hours; employees' urges to check e-mails out of working hours and their belief that spending time on e-mails outside of work means they are neglecting their social life; and employees sending e-mails out of office hours and their expectation of a quick reply or action. Design/methodology/approach – A case study approach was taken. Employees from a multinational service organisation were invited to complete an online questionnaire and a seven-day diary so as to collect qualitative and quantitative data about their use of e-mail. Findings – Data were analysed with respect to respondents' gender, role and length of service in the organisation and discussed with respect to the current literature. Research limitations/implications – Although the limitations of exploring a single organisation are recognised, it is likely that some of the insights and lessons generated by the study will be transferable to other organisational settings. Practical implications – This study identified some short-term recommendations as to how a particular company could limit the negative impact that e-mails have on its employees' lives outside of contracted working hours. In addition, this study will also raise awareness of the pervasion of work-related communications into employees' personal lives and, hopefully, trigger further research into the long-term psychological and sociological effects of a 24/7 communication culture. Originality/value – There are two novel aspects to this study: the use of diaries as a method of data collection and the notion of exploring e-mail use “out of hours”.