For some employees, when they leave work, they don’t even think about it until they return the next morning. For others, while they may leave their place of employment, they’re never truly disconnected. That’s because there’s a workplace culture where some employees feel they must check and respond to their work emails 24/7/365. While this may be the new normal, there’s research that shows it may also be harmful to employees.
An article titled, “The Perils of After-Hours Email,” on the website of Human Resource Executive Online references a survey conducted by CareerBuilder where more than half of the 3,200+ workers surveyed said the traditional 9-to-5 workday is a thing of the past, almost half check or answer emails after work, and more than 40 percent complete work outside regular office hours. Besides the potential legal ramifications of paying employees for this time based on the overtime rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are certainly health issues that factor into this “always on” mentality.
Granted, some jobs will never fall into that 9-to-5 category, especially those of multinational companies and those that must function across multiple time zones. But employers are increasingly becoming aware of employee burnout and constantly accessing email is one of those factors.
Productivity is often the measure of success, but employees should also be aware of their supervisor’s expectations. If the boss demands an immediate answer to an email, regardless of when it’s sent, then that employee should know to check his or her work email on a regular basis. However, if a response can wait until the next business morning, then the employee is free to enjoy their time away from work.
There are several employers in the United States that have implemented “email free” days, prohibit emails after a specific time in the evening and on weekends, or assign employees on a rotational basis to answer after-hours emails. There are also HR departments that are monitoring these types of emails and quantifying why they were sent.As the lines between work time and family time blur, it’s important for employers to realize that all employees have a breaking point and to dial it back a few notches before that can happen. As has been proven time and again, happy employees are more productive employees.