Does an After Hours Email Policy Work?
As an employer you are always trying to find ways to improve your employees’ productivity. Their well-being is paramount in achieving this. However, it is difficult to apply a “one size fits all” approach to this, especially in an office based environment. Some employees need regular breaks, some prefer to focus for long periods of time, some are more productive when they work from home and others are better when they confine their work to the office.
Most of us now regularly access our work emails on smart phones. A lot of employers are staring to apply an after hours email policy to restrict access to emails out of hours and whilst on annual leave in an attempt to improve the quality of their employees’ time away from work.
Imagine lying on a beach in the South of France scanning through the 107 emails that have come into your work inbox within the last 30 hours. You are not yet two days into your holiday and you can already see 3 urgent emails that you know need dealing with but there is no one able to action them to the extent that they require, despite you having left comprehensive notes with your more than competent team. How does this make you feel? What can you do about it?
Now, imagine lying on a beach in the South of France not being able to access your work emails as your employer’s policy is that work emails are not to be accessed out of hours or whilst on annual leave. You do not know how many emails you have received in the last 30 hours and any number of them could be urgent and require action. All you know is that you have prepared comprehensive notes which you have left with your more than competent team. You will have to deal with all the emails that have come in whilst you are away when you return from your holiday. How does this make you feel? What can you do about it?
Which of the above scenarios would you prefer?
For some, scenario 2 is the preferable option. There is nothing that you can do about it so the urgent matters will either have to be dealt with by someone else or await your return. This is your employer’s policy and therefore you are not doing anything wrong.
For others, the unknown quantity and urgency of emails piling up in their inbox is too much. What if my notes didn’t cover X? What if the Y deal falls over because that email wasn’t responded to? Knowing what is coming in is comforting; you can drink your gin and tonic whilst keeping an eye on things knowing that there is nothing there that can’t wait or can’t be dealt with by your team. You will know what you need to deal with and in what order when you return from your holiday.
Knowing what is best for your employees is, unfortunately, very much decision that needs to be made (as far as possible) on a case by case basis. Perhaps giving the employee similar scenarios to the above and asking them the questions that are asked above will give you an indication of whether it is best for their well-being to have their emails switched off whilst not at work or to leave them on.