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Why employers should make sure their staff know how to switch off

11 January 2019

An organisational culture that encourages staff to resist the pressure to be ‘always on’ can help them to be happier and more productive, the annual conference of our Division of Occupational Psychology was told today.

Business psychologists Nikhita Blackburn and Helen Rayner presented research suggesting that people who were ‘always on’ tend to be more engaged at work, but also report more stress and a poorer work-life balance.

The psychologists’ study examined factors that influence how people use technology. A total of 1116 workers completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment that measures four aspects of personality, including whether people have an extraverted or introverted approach to life.

Participants also answered questions on the advantages and disadvantages of being always connected, as well as behaviours like compulsive checking of mobile phones, the ability to switch off, and distraction caused by phone use. Their levels of job satisfaction, work-related stress and work-life conflict were also assessed.

The psychologists found that 28 per cent of respondents found it difficult to switch off mentally, 26 per cent reported interference with their personal life and 20 per cent mental exhaustion. Organisations that allowed employees to switch off after work had a positive impact on their wellbeing.

They also found that people who had an Introversion preference, Sensing preference (those who are practical and factual) or Judging preference (those who deal with the world in a more structured way) had a greater desire to keep home and work separate. The latter two personalities also found it difficult to switch off.

Nikhita Blackburn said:

“Technology has revolutionised how we communicate and how we manage our work and personal life and people can feel under pressure to be available for work-related communication at all times. This is unlikely to suit every personality.”

 “In the short term, people who are more engaged in their job may be tempted to be always on, but this may impair wellbeing and job performance over the longer term.

“Organisations might consider helping their staff recognise the ‘sweet spot’ between using technology to increase engagement and becoming a slave to it, as well as setting clear expectations about technology use outside work.”


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