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The thought of getting emails at night causes stress

Busy PAs know all too well that the temptation to check emails and messages one last time before bed is sometimes overwhelming. While it’s nice to know you won’t miss anything important, research shows that just knowing you might get an email after office hours is enough to stress you out.

A recent study led by Jan Dettmers at the University of Hamburg links extended work availability with decreased calmness, mood and energy levels. Researchers looked at employees in a variety of industries and evaluated the effects of being on call.

Participants reported lower moods the day after being on call compared to days when they weren’t required to be available. Dettmers and his team believe this is because readiness to respond to emails and calls makes it harder to relax and recover from work. Even when no messages came, participants were unable to unwind.

Dettmers links the effect to increased cortisol, which is a natural stress hormone. The chemical came in use when humans were still hunter-gatherers, but common consensus is it causes more harm than help in modern life.

Normally, a person’s cortisol level rises slowly in the morning and falls over the course of the day. But study participants’ level increased more quickly when they knew they would be on call later because they anticipated the stress to come.

While people utilise different coping mechanisms to deal with stress, this study found the most effective was detachment. Participants who were able to not think about work even when they were on call were more likely to relax and avoid bad moods.

Read the original article from Scientific American at