Olympics fever spurred many organisations to upgrade mobile working arrangements, but rather than enhancing flexibility, many employees find they are now permanently on call.

Mobile devices are leaving office workers unable to switch off and regularly taking work home with them, according to a survey of 1,014 office workers. Most workers who own a suitable device regularly check emails before work (56%), after office hours (66%) and at the weekend (60%).

Office workers cite time pressures during the working day (36%) as the most common reason why they look at mobile devices outside of their contracted hours. However, many people also feel obliged to make themselves available to meet the expectations of senior management (29%), colleagues (29%) and clients (24%).

This constant pressure has a negative impact on employee morale. While respondents acknowledge the benefits of technology advancements – including flexible working hours (43%) and the ability to work from home (37%) – for many people, the inability to switch off is adding pressure to already stressful and busy working lives. One in five respondents (20%) admits their free time is being squeezed, while 15% said they never switch off.

Portable technology should be a liberator not a shackle for the modern workforce. The ability to work from home when needed is a positive development, giving people greater working flexibility that ought to bring better quality of life. However, businesses also need to be aware of and manage potentially negative repercussions to ensure employees don’t feel mentally chained to their desks.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure workers know the limits of what is and what is not expected of them. There is a big difference between catching up on a few emails on the bus home and feeling obligated to respond to midnight requests from colleagues or clients. IT and HR teams should work together to explain why mobile devices are being made available to employees and set clear guidelines as to exactly what is expected of them in terms of remote working.