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Are You Required To Answer Emails After Working Hours? If so Why?

January 31st, 2017 | Posted by ATS in Absence Management | Benefit Accruals | Time and Attendance Blog, Workforce Management Software

Some jobs require its employees to always be on call through phone or email. But for the vast majority of the workforce, you are required to work a certain amount of hours, perhaps some overtime and then go home. That could be considered the norm. In supervisory and senior management circles, these individuals take on bigger roles and so, it’s not unusual to see your boss work ungodly hours. But that mean that employees should go to sleep with their phones beside their beds in anticipation of emails or phone calls from their boss?

Well French lawmakers are having none of this and have proposed a law called ‘Right to Disconnect’ whereby employees should not be required to respond to emails after they have completed their shift and left their place of work. Some might argue, and with good reason, that it’s reasonable if a boss sends an e-mail after work, especially if it’s important. The flip-side to this argument is, by responding to an occasional email once a week, will this open the floodgates to the boss expecting you to respond to emails at 2:00am in the morning?

Are You Required To Answer Emails After Working Hours? If so Why?

An article written by Maura Thomas for Harvard Business Review, titled ‘Your-Late Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team’ offers some poignant advice to leaders who expect their employees to always be available. She writes in part;

“A frantic environment that includes answering emails at all hours doesn’t make your staff more productive. It just makes them busy and distracted. You base your staff hiring decisions on their knowledge, experience, and unique talents, not how many tasks they can seemingly do at once, or how many emails they can answer in a day.”

The article also offers the following:

  • “Ditch the phrase “time management” for the more relevant “attention management,” and make training on this crucial skill part of your staff development plan.
  • Refrain from after-hours communication.
  • Model and discuss the benefits of presence, by putting away your devices when speaking with your staff, and implementing a “no device” policy in meetings to promote single-tasking and full engagement.”

Of course not all companies subscribe to this notion that their employees have to be available at all times. In fact, many companies expect their employees to have a healthy work-life-balance. However, the ones who expect employees to constantly respond to emails after hours, perpetuate an ‘always-on’ culture, that essentially prevent employees from fully disengaging from work, which in turn, can lead to chronic stress.

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