How Constant Availability Affects Your Health and Others

Work is a vicious cycle for many of us: In order to get ahead, you should always be ready to hop on a task, but doing so puts the boundary between your personal life on the line. Not getting ahead, of course, probably means working too many hours for a personal life. Only your employer really comes out on top.

If you need more of a reason to maintain a separation between your job and everything else, let some new research make the case. We already know that super long days negatively affect your physical and mental health. A study released this week suggests that even checking your email outside of work hours can be to your detriment — and to those around you.

"The mere expectations of availability increase strain for employees and their significant others — even when employees do not engage in actual work during nonwork time," according to a press release from Virginia Tech. The "always on" mentality keeps you from choosing where to be truly present, and your friends and family notice that. (This extends to digital distraction in general, according to another study released this week.)

Ultimately, this requires solutions from employers, namely changes to a company culture that expects constant availability without commensurate compensation. If you're not in charge at work, however, you can still pursue strategies to help yourself. The study's authors recommend using mindfulness techniques to fully separate yourself from work expectations. Other solutions can include part-time telecommuting, which can lead to "less emotional exhaustion and decreased work-family conflict." If it's worth it to your loved ones outside of work, it's definitely worth it for you.