In a digital world; portable laptops, tablets and smartphones mean an employee can work from almost anywhere at anytime. More employers are expecting their employees to remain constantly connected to work outside of normal hours – putting the mental health of staff at risk.
Employees can feel guilty for switching off their devices linked to work emails, worried that an issue may come up that needs their immediate attention. This has had the effect of shattering the traditional working hours that helped separate home and family life. Even if the employee is not sitting at a computer, a notification on a smartphone alerting them to a new work email takes them back into 'office mode' – making it harder to relax and spend quality time with friends and family.
When workers lose control over their workload they become at risk of suffering a stress-related concern. This may lead them to lodge a compensation claim alleging that they have become stressed from an excessive, unfair workload or from unreasonable expectations or pressures from their employer.
Employers who create systems where employees can access work databases and emails from any location are reaping the benefits of free labour, and the respectful employees who check their work emails at home are providing it.
So, while the rising use of laptops, tablets and smartphones has created freedom, they become a problem when employees feel pressured to send work emails after hours or when they feel they need to prove their dedication.
Both managers and employees can watch out for signs of stress in their colleagues, which could include increased absenteeism, changes in mood, irritability, reduced productivity, becoming withdrawn or conflicting with others.
Employers can prevent stress-type concerns from an excessive workload by promoting work-life balance as a healthy lifestyle, making sure that staff aren’t pressured into working overtime and ensuring the job fits well with other life demands.
Flexible working arrangements like flexitime, part-time work and job sharing can go a long way towards creating a culture of flexibility, while confidential counselling services can offer staff support when they need it most.
beyondblue's Heads Up resource offers advice to both employers and employees on achieving the best possible mental health in the workplace.