Out of hours work emails. OK or not?
Posted on 1st July 2021 at 10:27
In our recent LinkedIn poll, 50% of respondents said an all-out ban on calls and emails outside of 9-5 hours is unrealistic, 38% believed it was OK ‘in an emergency’, whilst 12% said a ban was completely feasible. But is it that black and white?
Earlier this month, the BBC reported that trade union, Prospect, is calling for the government to ban bosses from routinely emailing or calling outside of work hours, seeing any messages sent during these times being automatically deleted to deter ‘off duty’ staff from checking their inboxes.
This is already in place in Ireland, where all employees have the right to disconnect under an official code of practise that was introduced earlier this year, giving people entitlement to switch off from their jobs outside of normal working hours, including not having to respond immediately to emails, calls or other messages.
The argument from Prospects is that, for millions of people, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office, making it harder to switch off - thus negatively affecting mental health. What’s more, people are doing increasing amounts of unpaid work, when the tug towards their desks becomes irresistible.
However, the flip side of the argument is that working from home and answering and sending emails outside of standard nine-to-five hours has been a lifeline for many, allowing them to flexibly slot in work around home and family commitments - enabling them to take control and be productive at a time that suits them.
We were interested to hear what our clients, colleagues and associates thought of the concept of banning emails and calls outside of working hours, so put out a quick poll on our LinkedIn profile, and it turned out a small fraction (12%) of respondents believed it was feasible to ban them altogether. In fact, half said it was unrealistic to do this, with almost as many (38%) adding that it was OK to contact someone out of working hours in an emergency.
What was most telling was some of the comments we received both for and against. Business Analyst, Mark Townsend, agreed a ban was unrealistic, but believes expectations to respond must be managed: “Banning calls and messages outside of standard working hours is the opposite of flexible working. If it suits people to email, or respond to emails, outside of 9-5 hours then they should do so. The real issue is that expectations aren't set and agreed - for example, a manager can send an email, but should not expect an answer until the recipient is working their hours.”
On the other side of the debate, IT consultant, Lawrence Curling, believes work and personal time should be kept separate: “When you work for somebody you exchange time for money, ergo when you are not being paid that is your time and not theirs. Personally I will answer the phone 24/7 as long as I am being paid to do so. Employees need to realise their worth.”
What’s most telling from this debate, and the comments above, is that times have changed, yet it’s critical parameters are set by both employers and employees to avoid burnout and exploitation.
Nicky Mikulla, Client Solutions Manager at Iridium comments: “I’m a working mum, and having the ability to fit my work around my family means I can prioritise my children without compromising my work. I’m lucky to work for a business with strong family values, where there would never be an expectation that calls and emails should be responded to immediately.
“Out of hours communication mostly happens via WhatsApp and email, and I am (and have always been) happy to respond quickly in an emergency. I think effective home working is about respect, discipline and communication. My colleagues know when I’m going to be uncontactable, and we all understand that we need time away from our desks, and fully encourage people to check out regularly for the sake of their wellbeing. Not everyone in the business does feel comfortable being contacted out of hours and we fully respect that.”
We’d love to hear your views on this. Don’t hesitate to contact any of the Iridium team on LinkedIn to share your thoughts.
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