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Alert anxiety hits workers over constant out-of-hours notifications
Thu, 7th Dec 2023

Research released by RingCentral, a leading provider of AI-first global enterprise cloud communications, video meetings, collaboration, and contact centre solutions, indicates the burgeoning issue of out-of-hours notifications in the UK and their impact on work-life boundaries. The report exposes the escalating problem of alert anxiety among British workers, and especially among younger generations feeling the pressure to answer notifications immediately, even outside of work hours.

The Communications @ Work Index shed light on the surprising fact that notifications cause the same amount of anxiety for Brits as spiders and bugs (54%) and almost as much as going to the dentist (59%). According to the study, 32% of those aged between 21-34 admit that the increasing amount of work notifications makes them unable to concentrate on spending time with loved ones. Also, results showed that 14% feel the need to respond immediately, and 33% within an hour.

The research discovered that more than half of the employees (52%) are navigating through six or more apps during a typical work week. Such high usage leads to more notifications, causing annoyance, anxiety, or stress to a quarter of British workers upon receiving a work alert. This effect is more prominent among younger workers, causing higher anxiety (27%) and stress (26%). Interestingly, 21% of Brits find navigating between different communications apps more annoying than sitting in traffic jams or waiting in long lines.

An 'always on' culture is noticeable among UK workers, who feel obligated to bring work home and check notifications out-of-hours. This increased significantly (31%) in the past year, causing younger workers in particular to feel this pressure. Gen Z and Millennials, in particular, are more likely to check work notifications outside of work hours. For instance, 65% of Millennials who check notifications out-of-hours respond most or all of the time, as do 57% of Gen Z.

Such a rise in notifications not only adds to the sense of always being at work, but also significantly impacts time spent outside work. For instance, 49% of those respondents who experienced increased work notifications admitted that they feel like they're always at work, even when off the clock. Moreover, one-third (32%) of Gen Z and Millennials said this affected their ability to fully focus on loved ones.

This research suggests that the UK might need to join countries like Belgium, France and Portugal, which have recently implemented 'right to disconnect' laws to curb workplace fatigue and anxiety. These policies allow employees to disengage from work outside their regular work hours, meaning they won't receive or have to answer any work-related messages or calls once they are off the clock.

Steve Rafferty, VP International at RingCentral, suggests a combined approach to tackle the problem. He said, "Communications is at the heart of every business. With the blurring work-life boundaries in the new era of work, along with heightened negative feelings of anxiety, annoyance, and stress taking their toll, workers are finding it hard to disconnect. As we approach the holiday season and new year, businesses must consider adopting tools that consolidate cross-team communication efforts, alongside adapting their culture and updating their working policies to support employee wellbeing."