Technology is supposed to make life easier, more streamlined. The amount of work that we accomplish with technology today would be unimaginable 20 years ago. So why is it that, as technology advances, we seem to be working more instead of less?
According to a Gallup poll, two thirds of Americans say that the work they do after hours has increased due to technology. Why is this happening…?
Because of our inability to disconnect.
We’ve talked before about how to create a happy workplace, and how to reduce stress while boosting morale. Whether you work a typical 9-5 or a flexible/remote schedule, it’s important to separate work time from personal time. When you’re working, you want to be fully available to focus and do your job well.
Similarly, your personal time is yours. This is especially important for managers, as emails sent during off hours can often create a stressful environment that trickles down to your employees. Your team shouldn’t feel like they need to be “plugged in” 24/7.
One of the primary reasons for constantly checking and responding to emails is ambition; we all want to be successful and thrive in our careers.
When a boss or colleague sends a late email, it can be easy to feel like a prompt response is required (or that you will impress the sender with your quick response). Even if you don’t feel that way, the attitude can quickly become contagious. A simple mention of emails from the night before can make your team feel like they are out of the loop and should be doing more. It steals their personal time.
It’s also important for us to be present. Whether at work or at home, technology has made multi-tasking increasingly normalized. Emphasize the importance of being present and engaged in the moment. Leave your phone off during meetings and encourage a “no-device” policy during meetings and other interactions.
Much like you wouldn’t want your employees engaged in personal activities during work, they shouldn’t be engaging in work during personal time. Even the knowledge that a boss or colleague is still working hours after leaving the office can put unfair pressure on workers to do more. This leads to stress and, ultimately, job burnout.
5 Tips to Reduce After-Work Email
That said, here are some ways to minimize overworking, and to let your team know that their time off is important:
#1: Find other ways to communicate. If something is truly urgent enough to be addressed after hours, pick up the phone and make a call. This tells employees that they aren’t expected to check and respond to emails 24/7.
#2: Agree on company standards for after-hours communication. This is especially important for people who work remote or flex schedules, and projects that require after hours attention. Set clear guidelines for when employees are on, and when they’re off. Protect downtime.
#3: Create ways to organize and record your thoughts to communicate later. For those who work best at night, or don’t want to forget something important, it can be tempting to shoot off a quick email. Find other ways to document your thoughts and save them for agreed business hours. You can even use an email client to schedule emails for the morning.
#4: Set clear expectations for remote work and special projects. For employees working remotely, be intentional about the time that they put in, and when they are expected to be available.
#5: Set your out-of-office message when you leave work for the day. With the 24/7 working culture becoming more and more prevalent, the use of the OOO reply can be very useful for downtime. You’re not sick or on vacation, but you are off. You are not at work, and the reply lets others know that you are done for the day and will respond when you are back to work.
The economic principle of competition has penetrated almost every area of social and personal life, which disempowers and isolates us. -Jonathan Crary
Competition and hard work are admirable qualities, but when taken too far, they lead to a stressful workplace and unhappy lives. Encourage downtime. Define work time and personal time. Save the email for the morning. Your colleagues will thank you.