'The Right to Disconnect': An Intervention Study to Examine the Effect of Constant Connectivity Through Work-Emails on Work-Home Conflict, Recovery, Burnout, and Performance

Student thesis: Phd


Research exploring the impact of work-related information communication technology (ICT) demands has grown rapidly over the past 15 years and evidence for a dark side is mounting. The ever-increasing reliance on work-related ICT, such as emails, which leave workers inundated with incoming messages, create spillover into non-work domains and facilitate constant work connectivity, can be detrimental to employee health and wellbeing. Despite concerns of employees, organisations, and policy makers and repeated calls for interventions, research progress on this matter remains slow. Thus, while recent European legislative actions citing worker's right to disconnect signal that this is taken as a serious health threat and needs to be managed, the evidence base that supports such actions is largely absent. This thesis addresses this gap through three well-aligned research articles. The first research article identifies the vastly emerging yet divergent research streams that have formed in the technostress and wider ICT demands literature as a barrier to progress as this can make it difficult to fully understand what is known about certain ICT stressors and how to address them. Subsequently, a comprehensive systematic review (N = 114 articles) was conducted which a) clarifies the conceptual nature of different ICT demands by creating a taxonomy and unifying framework and b) reviews associated negative outcomes in the work and home domains. This framework more readily captures stressors relevant to mobile ICT which offers a starting point for well-informed intervention research. The second article presents a quasi-experimental intervention designed to reduce email-specific ICT demands, through the team-level implementation of new email guidelines, as a means for improving employee wellbeing and performance outcomes. The results reveal that the implementation of certain email rules is effective in reducing techno-overload, techno-invasion, email monitoring frequency and time spent on emails during non-work time. This reduction in demands functioned as the mediating mechanism that facilitated significant improvements in work-home conflict, psychological detachment, burnout and performance. The third paper presents a conceptual replication of this intervention to test whether the intervention effects generalise to a private sector sample that works in an international context. The results highlight that the effects on constant connectivity demands and burnout can be replicated in other samples and industries however, inconsistencies are highlighted and discussed. This thesis deepens understanding of demands- and resource-based stress theories, particularly the work-home resources model, and provides practical knowledge for the design of interventions relevant to the right-to-disconnect movement.
Date of Award31 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSharon Clarke (Supervisor) & Cary Cooper (Supervisor)


  • Technostress
  • Intervention
  • Work-home conflict
  • Burnout
  • Constant connectivity
  • Emails
  • ICT demands
  • Employee wellbeing

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