To lessen worker anxiety,employers should lower their expectations for workers to monitorelectronic communication outside of work, or at least establishboundaries. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Even if employees are allowed to have “flexible hours” when working at home, theperception of being perpetually “on-call” can place a great strain on both themand their families, according to the study, “Killing me softly-electronic communicationsmonitoring and employee and significant-other well-being,” by ateam of researchers led by William Becker, a Virginia Techassociate professor of management.

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“The competing demands of work and non-work lives present adilemma for employees, which triggers feelings of anxiety andendangers work and personal lives,” Becker says.

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Related: 11 fastest-growing flexible jobs for2018

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That anxiety can be exacerbated during the times when they'renot working — but still checking their emails to see if their employerat the drop of a hat will demand something, the research found.

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“The insidious impact of 'always on' organizational culture isoften unaccounted for or disguised as a benefit — increasedconvenience, for example, or higher autonomy and control overwork-life boundaries,” Becker says. “Our research exposes thereality: 'flexible work boundaries' often turn into 'work withoutboundaries,' compromising an employee's and their family's healthand well-being.”

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To lessen worker anxiety, employers should lower theirexpectations for workers to monitor electronic communicationoutside of work, or at least establish boundaries on whenelectronic communication is expected – and when workers can trulyturn off their devices and laptops, he says.

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Workers should also try to lower their anxiety levels as much asthey can by practicing mindfulness during family interactions,which can help reduce conflict and improve relationshipsatisfaction, Becker says.

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Becker co-authored the study with Liuba Y. Belkin, of LehighUniversity; Samantha A. Conroy, of Colorado State University; andSarah Tuskey, a Virginia Tech Ph.D. student in executive businessresearch.

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“Workplace cultures that expect employees to be virtuallyaccessible 24/7 do so at great risk,” HRDive writes. “Anxiety causes burnout and canlead to serious health problems for employees. Health problemslower productivity over time, resulting in distraction on the joband absenteeism.”

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Employers then have a “formidable task” trying to motivate“burned out, overworked and ill workers” — not to mention exposethemselves to higher workplace healthcare costs, according toHRDive.

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“Employers that don't give their workers any right to disconnectfrom the office may want to seriously consider the consequences ofsuch a policy — and may need to look into an overhaul in theircultures to keep workers from feeling as though their jobs arejeopardized if they're not accessible 24/7,” HRDive writes.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.