New international research has found that continuing work at home could be impacting our sleep and stress levels, and our productivity at work the next day.
Carried out by researchers from the University of South Australia, Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands and Kitasato University, Japan, the new study followed 230 healthcare employees over a two-year period.
The researchers assessed the effect of whether particular activities after work have a positive or negative effect on cognitive, emotional, and physical detachment from work and sleep quality.
The findings, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, showed that continuing to work even after leaving the office, for example by emailing, checking phones, laptops and text messages, has both a short and long-term negative impact on sleep and stress.
In addition, this ‘work creep’ reduces our ability to relax and recharge for the next day, actually making us less productive at work.
On the other hand, the researchers found that care activities such as housework, cooking and looking after children are positively related to sleep quality, while low-effort activities such as reading, watching television or listening to music helped people switch off from the work.
As a consequence, employees are better able to deal with future job demands.
Lead researcher Jan de Jonge now advises low-effort activities to detach from the working day, adding that exercise is also a good way to wind down and aid sleep. However de Jonge advises against exercise late at night when it can have the opposite effect by spiking adrenaline and cortisone levels in the body.
Previous research has shown that a daytime nap of around 30 minutes can help to restore alertness and improve productivity.
Professor Maureen Dollard, Director of UniSA’s Asia Pacific Centre for Work, Health and Safety, commented on the findings saying, “Managers need to create a climate in which working beyond regular hours is not ‘business as usual’ as taking work home impedes cognitive function and productivity.”
“Both managers and employees should find creative ways to accomplish job demands within regular work hours.” CC