Always on people more engaged, but more stressed

New study suggests some personalities are better suited to blurring work and life and that allowing employees to switch off has a positive impact on well being.


People who are ‘always on’ tend to be more engaged at work, but also report more stress and a poorer work-life balance, according to new research.

The new study by business psychologists Nikhita Blackburn and Helen Rayner was presented at the British Psychology Society on Friday and found significant levels of mental exhaustion caused by always being on as well as positive well being effects from employees who worked for organisations that allowed them to switch off.

The study examined factors that influence how people use technology. It involved a study of over 1,000 workers and measured four key personality traits.

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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