After-hour connectivity refers to the growing phenomenon of employees being connected to work-related communication after typical working hours. This can manifest in several ways, such as employees checking work email long after their working day has ended, or managers expecting their employees to be attentive to work related communication on the weekend. As technology has become more integrated into the workplace, this problem has compounded. However, new research suggests that there may be unexplored benefits to after-hour connectivity, namely feelings of autonomy and the ability to engage in job-crafting.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
The researchers (Zoonen et al., 2023) recently conducted surveys of 192 employees from a large Scandinavian company. At three different points, they measured how connected to work employees were after their working hours were finished, the amount of autonomy the employees felt they had, and how exhausted the employees were.
Results indicate that the greater autonomy the employees felt, the less exhaustion they reported, even in the face of after-hour connectivity. Further, after-hour connectivity led to increased feelings of autonomy. Although the researchers did not directly test the reason for this unexpected finding, they theorize that after-hour connectivity gives employees more opportunity for job crafting and lets them feel as though they “hold the reins” of their own job.
After-hour connectivity has been the source of much debate recently, especially with a greater shift to remote and hybrid work forces. Some employees find after-hour connectivity to be a burden, while other see it as an opportunity. To best navigate this, organizations should:
- Make after-hour connectivity available, but not mandatory. There are some benefits to after-hour connectivity, such as an increased opportunity for job crafting, but some employees may need time to recharge and be with their families and friends apart from work.
- Listen to and respect employee opinions. Since after-hour connectivity is so divisive, leaders should talk to employees, listen carefully, and respect their viewpoints.
- Organizations should consider providing training to leaders and employees about how best to utilize the option of after-hour connectivity, and how to set and respect boundaries regarding personal time.
- Promote a culture of openness and give employees control over their jobs. Allow employees to express their feelings and frustrations throughout the whole day. Provide opportunities for employees to disengage from work throughout the day to recharge, especially if after-hour connectivity is an imperative.
- If after-hour connectivity is not a good option, provide employees with an opportunity to engage in job crafting throughout the day. This will ensure they don’t miss out on its potential benefits.
van Zoonen, W. , Treem, J. W., & Sivunen, A. E. (2023). Staying connected and feeling less exhausted: The autonomy benefits of after-hour connectivity. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 96, 242-263.
Image credit: istockphoto/Aleutie