Empty Office

From work emails popping up on your smartphone to events from your day replaying themselves in your head, there are dozens of little ways your job can follow you home. But research suggests that you might want to think twice about letting your work-related worries edge their way into your free time.

Psychologists call the ability to separate work and non-work time “work detachment.” This compartmentalization has some real benefits. For example:

  • Higher marital satisfaction: It’s a common trope that working too much can harm your marriage. But what might be even worse is not separating your home life and your work life. A study published this year found that keeping work and home separate tends to increase marital satisfaction.
  • Easier recovery from work: It makes intuitive sense that if you never really take a break from your work, it’s going to be hard to re-energize after your workday. No surprise, then, that people who detach from work and relax more at home recover more easily from work.
  • Healthier eating: Whether your work leaves the office with you impacts how you eat at home too. People who detach more from work eat more cooked meals and fewer processed foods on average.
  • Higher work engagement: Interestingly, detaching from work can even make you better at your job. When people engage in more leisure activities in their off-time, they’re more engaged in their work the next morning, suggesting that giving people downtime from work is a win-win for employers and employees.
  • Higher life satisfaction: Add all these things up, and what d’you get? Higher overall life satisfaction, of course! A 2010 study showed that people who detach more from work seem to be more satisfied with life and less emotionally exhausted as a group.

Basically, you might want to reconsider checking your work email after dinner. The research that’s in indicates that keeping work separate from the rest of your life can make you happier, healthier and maybe even better at your job!

Image: Flickr/Lauren Orsini