Individual Differences and ImpactResearch

Contact with work after hours is linked to family conflict, distress and sleep issues

'Are communications about work outside regular working hours associated with work-to-family conflict, psychological distress and sleep problems?'
Extracts and summary of the research by: Scott Schieman and Marisa C. Young (2013)

Key quotes from the research:

  • ‘…work contact is associated with higher levels of work-to-family conflict, distress and sleep problems.’
  • ‘…simultaneous exposure to high pressure and contact [with work after hours] heightens arousal that , in turn, poses a greater threat to one’s sense of equilibrium, energy, and mental or physical resources that either one does on its own.’
  • ‘…job pressure might exacerbate the impact of work contact…[in] that both pressure and contact – as different but interrelated demands – draw on the same limited volitional resource…’

Summary of the research: 

Those who are in constant contact with work in private time are more likely to experience conflict with the family by reducing the level of finite time and energy workers have outside of work. Increased work engagement also increases psychological stress and exacerbates sleep issues.

 There are some caveats to this: 

  • Workers who have the ability to manage their workload, such as job control (i.e. flexibility as to when they get the work done) and autonomy (i.e. when and how they get their job done) are less impacted by work contact after hours
  • Those who have more challenging roles that are require the learning of new things, include creative elements, span a variety of different tasks and get to use their skills and abilities are less likely to experience family conflict, be stressed and have sleep issues 
  • In contrast, those whose roles are overwhelming and/or highly pressured intensifies the work contact after hours and exacerbates family contact and sleep problems. 

Having a highly pressurised job or one that is overwhelming is more likely to lead to greater levels of work contact after hours, which reduces the amount of time spent with others. Even that time with family is spent in a state of stress which also reduces the amount of recovery sleep received. 

Having a more rewarding role, that allows a worker the ability to work around other life commitments, and provides a level of personal growth and feeling valued is more likely to lead to lower levels of stress and better sleep, even if the worker has regular contact with work during private hours.