EMOTIONAL HEALTH
May 11, 2018

The Perils of Flex-Time

It's nice to be able to work from home, but it can mean you are never off-duty.

The ability to work from home, a coffee shop or virtually anywhere is a double-edged sword. It can make your work schedule more flexible and spare you the risks of an unpleasant work environment, but it can also play havoc with the rest of your life, blurring the line between your work- and home-life as you handle emails, texts and phone calls from bosses and colleagues. Some degree of separation seems essential to most people's well being.

This was evident in a study of over 1,900 people in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It found that if you don't set firm boundaries between your work and your personal life, you're likely to find yourself working when you should be with family and friends or just relaxing and enjoying yourself.

Some degree of separation between work and the rest of one's life seems to be essential to most people's well being.

The University of Zurich and University of South Florida researchers asked study participants about their work/life boundaries, ranging from how often they worked late or took work home, to whether they made time to relax and socialize after work, and the steps they took to make sure that their work did not interfere with their private life. They were also asked about their work/life balance.

People who reported less separation between their work life and their outside life reported being more exhausted, both mentally and physically. Part of this appeared to be due to how little time they spent doing things that helped them recover from the workday, things they wanted to do rather than the things they had to do.

The study can't prove that too little separation between work and outside life caused exhaustion, only that the two go together. The same is true for exhaustion being caused by lack of revitalizing recovery activities.

A flexible work schedule can be especially hard on parents, when the demands of a boss can take their attention away from their children just when kids need it the most. It can be just as bad for singles, who may be seen as having few outside responsibilities, and are even more likely to be expected to drop everything and respond to a work-related issue.

The study is published in the Journal of Business and Psychology.

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