August 8, 2014 3:36 pm

Should Canadian employers ban after work emails?

A recent poll from Gallup research found that two-thirds of U.S. workers reported doing more work outside of regular work hours thanks to the rise of mobile devices – and were better because of it.

OJO Images / Rex Features

TORONTO – We’re all guilty of it; getting home from a long day at the office only to compulsively check our work-dedicated devices.

And as many Canadians head home for one of the last few summer weekends of the year, many will undoubtedly be distracted by their work-related device.

Turns out, the after work email debate is a hot topic in Europe, where many countries are taking action to prevent their employees from burning out. But do we have a different attitude in North America?

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A recent poll from Gallup research found that two-thirds of U.S. workers reported doing more work outside of regular work hours thanks to the rise of mobile devices – and were better because of it.

READ MORE: Is a condensed, 3-day work week a good idea for work-life balance?

According to the study, over a third of full time employees admitted to checking their email on their own time – however, those who did were 17 per cent more likely to say they had improved lives. Those who spent seven or more hours per work checking their email outside work hours also reported being happier overall.

Interestingly the study found that nearly 80 per cent of workers see the influx of mobile devices in their professional lives as a positive thing.

In April, France passed a law that requires workers to shut down their phones and computers after 6 p.m. in hopes to reduce the pressure on employees to respond to work-related correspondence after work hours.

READ MORE: No work emails after 6 p.m. becomes law for some in France

And the French aren’t the only ones thinking about work-life balance.

In 2011, Volkswagen made it so that its servers would shut down the ability to send emails 30 minutes after an employee’s shift ended. German companies BMW and Puma followed suit.

In 2013 Germany’s labour ministry also banned its managers from calling or emailing staff outside of work hours – all this to prevent employees from burning out.

Which leads us to the question should Canadian companies consider banning after work emails?

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), 58 per cent of Canadians report feeling overloaded between their work, home and family lives.

But that feeling of being overloaded can lead to serious health consequences.

Employees who consider most of their days to be quite a bit or extremely stressful are three times more likely to suffer a major depressive episode compared to those who reported low stress, according to Statistics Canada.

CMHA recommends that employees should try only checking their email periodically throughout the day and shutting their devices down when it’s time to go home to prevent work-related stress.

It’s also recommended that employees make a distinction between work and the rest of their lives by turning off electronic communications and not allowing themselves to be available 24/7.

How can I tell if I have a poor work-life balance?

According to the CMHA, there are many warning signs to look out for if you are feeling stressed. Here are some signs that you may be out of balance:

  • You feel like you’ve lost control of your life
  • You often feel guilty about neglecting your different roles
  • You frequently find it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand
  • You’re always tired

© Shaw Media, 2014

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