Working After 6 Can Really Hurt Your Relationship, A New Study Finds

I have a hard time ending my work day. A lot of it has to do with the nature of my job, which means I'm pretty much constantly working. My friends in every field, from finance to PR, can't seem to leave their work at the office, either. We may leave physically, but it's easy for work to follow us home when we're attached to our devices. This may be great for productivity, but for personal lives? Not so much. In fact, according to a new study, working after 6 p.m. can hurt your relationship, so you might want to consider logging off, ASAP.

In the study, titled, Killing Me Softly: Electronic Communications Monitoring And Employee And Significant-Other Well-Being, professors at Virginia Tech found that employer's expectations that we be plugged into our work correspondences, even after hours, can cause anxiety. This negatively affects not just our own health, but also the wellbeing of our relationships.

"The competing demands of work and nonwork lives present a dilemma for employees, which triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives," explains William Becker, a Virginia Tech associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business, and a co-author of the study.

It's no secret that physically bringing your work home with you can cause stress, but this new study focused on more than just those people. Researchers also took into account those of us who are simply expected by our bosses to be available at all times. They found that just the very thought that someone out there expects you to be available at all times, even while you're chilling on the couch watching Friends with your bae, can haunt the back of your mind and leave you feeling anxious. Then, next thing you know, that anxiety finds its way into your relationship, and suddenly, that episode of Friends is on pause and you're consoling your partner while they cry about the fact that you're "there, but you're not really there."

Becker blames the issue on new, often seemingly laid-back, corporate structures. "The insidious impact of ‘always on’ organizational culture is often unaccounted for or disguised as a benefit — increased convenience, for example, or higher autonomy and control over work-life boundaries,” he explained to the Virginia Tech News. "Our research exposes the reality: ‘flexible work boundaries’ often turn into ‘work without boundaries,’ compromising an employee’s and their family’s health and well-being."

Obviously, in an ideal world, we'd like our employers to totally restructure their corporate policies in a way that would get rid of the expectation of constant availability. But, if you don't see your employer making those changes any time soon, Becker suggests changing things on your end.

He recommends you do this by practicing mindfulness. In other words, try your best to be present and fully in the moment when you're spending time with your bae. This way, you'll stop stressing about work and, as a result, reduce conflict within your own relationship.

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