Despite previous concerns that checking email outside of work raises employee stress levels, new research finds that most workers say reading the messages they receive after hours doesn't have much of an impact.
The Gallup study discovered that 67 percent of employees said checking after-work emails didn't have much effect on their personal well-being, with 17 percent saying it actually has a positive effect. Just 15 percent of the employees surveyed said reading and responding to work emails after hours has a negative effect on their happiness.
The research also revealed that 80 percent of employees say reviewing emails outside of work doesn't have much effect on their relationships with family and friends. [Want to make your emails more professional? Here are 15 ways to make it happen.]
The study's authors said the results suggest that checking email during non-working hours isn't an issue for most U.S. workers.
"It is possible that U.S. workers accept checking email at night and on weekends as a part of their job – possibly more so than workers in other countries – or that workers enjoy their job and find it pleasurable to remain connected regardless of normal working hours," the study's authors wrote. "For others, email traffic may be limited enough on nights and weekends that it isn't a problem."
Overall, nearly 60 percent of U.S. employees say they check their email outside of normal working hours, even if just rarely. The study shows that 26 percent of workers can't access their messages when not in the office, while 15 percent do have access but still don't look at their emails.
Although most employees who check email after working hours only glance at it, or read it but don't reply until they return to the office, 21 percent of employees review and respond to their emails the same way they would during normal working hours.
In the end, the majority of employees said most of the emails they receive when outside the office don't require a quick reply. The research shows that, of those who frequently check email when not in the office, only 11 percent think the number of messages they must respond to during those hours is unreasonable.
The study's authors said previous research that associated increased stress with checking email outside of work was correlational.
"In the current study, workers were asked directly about the impact of email use outside of normal working hours," they wrote.
While the current study found that most employees don't suffer any negative effects from checking email outside of the workplace, the researchers admit that might not necessarily be the case in the future.
"The workplace in the U.S. is changing rapidly, making it difficult to predict how important the use of email outside of traditional business hours will be in the future," they wrote. "The definition of 'normal working hours' may become fuzzier as the prevalence of gig workers, remote workers and workers with flexible schedules increases."
The study was based on surveys of 812 full- and part-time workers.