When was the last time you left the office and didn’t check your email for the rest of the day? If the most recent CareerBuilder survey is an indication, it’s probably hard to remember. The numbers don’t lie:
- 3 in 5 workers believe the 9 to 5 workday is a thing of the past, and
- 45% of workers say they complete work outside of office hours.
The expectation to not only be available but to be a working contributor after hours is widespread. The idea of not responding to an urgent, late-night email is foreign, borderline unprofessional. At least, that’s what the new way of working tells us.
The June cover story of Harvard Business Review cast the limelight on the ongoing pressure for employees to be the ideal worker, stating:
“By operating in this way, organizations pressure employees to become what sociologists have called ideal workers: people totally dedicated to their jobs and always on call. The phenomenon is widespread in professional and managerial settings; it’s been documented in depth at tech start-ups, at investment banks, and in medical organizations. In such places, any suggestion of meaningful outside interests and commitments can signal a lack of fitness for the job.”
The burning-the-midnight-oil-mentality has resulted in massive sacrifices in the personal lives of employees – missed milestones, dinners, birthdays, you name it – on account of going the extra mile to get the job done.
Sometimes stuff comes up that needs to be taken care of immediately, but more often than not, you might be hurting more than helping. Despite the most honorable intentions, researchers have noticed that after-hour email actually hurts teams, diminishes creativity and kills morale. Another Harvard Business Review article from earlier this year explained how the always-on workforce hurts you, your team and your company because, “after-hour emails speed up corporate – and, in turn, chips away at creativity, innovation, and true productivity.”
What it really comes down to is the message you’re sending when you fire off an email late at night or over the weekend. Are you expecting people to respond immediately? Or are you just trying to get it off your mind?
I’m willing to bet those late-night emails can wait until morning. You might have 24/7 access to work, but that doesn’t mean you always need to be working. It’s important to give your brain a break after work hours. It’s the only way you can recharge and refocus.
What do you think? Are the lines between work and home forever blurred? How to you combat the impulse to check email after hours?