Employers must tackle an “epidemic” of staff checking work emails after-hours, a former government adviser has said.

Sir Cary Cooper said a compulsion to deal with the messages had caused the UK’s employees to become less productive than many of their international counterparts.

“For people to be working at night, weekends and holiday on emails is not good for the health of our country,” the professor told the BBC.

He also wants limits on internal email.

“We need to ban emails [sent and received] within the same building,” he said, advocating instead for face-to-face meetings and phone calls.

His comments follow a speech he gave on the topic to the British Psychological Society’s annual conference, which was covered by the Times.

However, the academic sought to clarify the newspaper’s claim that he wanted IT staff to shut down employers’ computer servers outside office hours.

“I’m not encouraging them to do that – I think it’s pretty extreme to close down your server,” he said.

“But if it turns out [email] is adversely affecting your business and the health of your employees, then that’s an option.”