Out of Hours Work Emails: Should you reply?

Out of Hours Work Emails: Should you reply?

In May 2015 a potential law suit in America raised the question of whether employees could sue their boss for making them answer work emails outside of work hours.

The Center for Creative Leadership carried out a survey and reported on it, in their White Paper: Always On, Never Done? Don’t blame the Smartphone. The survey reported that most people who use smartphones at work, stay connected for more than 13 hours a day!  And at the weekends, they can spend another five hours checking work emails.

When the office contacts you at home
When you’re looking for an “Easy Like Sunday Morning” moment but get an email from work

With the rise in work-issued smart phones, the question is whether this gives your boss the right to email you and insist on a response, after work hours?

And if so, should the employee then be equally within their rights to list this for overtime pay? That question stands even if the phone is yours and not work-issued.

Replying to the original article, posted on The Wall Street Journals Facebook Page [1] Should It Be Illegal For Your Boss To Make You Email After Work?:-

“I think “making you answer late-night email” is misleading. Many people complete their work at odd hours, and sending an email completes the task with no expectation that someone will answer it at the time sent. True emergencies are also fair game, and if they happen frequently, expectations and compensation should be discussed.”

“I’ve liked all my bosses over the years, if one happened to ring at 10pm it must be important. Nothing wrong with putting a bit of extra effort in especially later on when you need something from the boss it’s not a hassle. As long as it squares itself out, if it’s all one way yeah forget it.”

“I responded to one of my boss’ emails after 8pm and he told me off. He expected a reply the next morning.”

When work contacts you at home
“You couldn’t have emailed me this Friday afternoon?!!”

“Depends on the job and the boss. Basically, the reasoning behind it.”

“No, it’s your time”

“NO, unless you’re friends or paid to take care of it”

“It depends on your job, but I wouldn’t reply. There must be a work/life balance, and many bosses tend to make their immediate issue, yours as well, even if it’s after business hours.”

Certainly there is recognition that employees home and social time should be protected, and respected.

In some instances Global Companies have applied cut-off times to their email networks. Volkswagon has a system in place that stops any emails being sent to company mobiles between 6pm and 7am. And Daimler’s email network automatically deletes emails that are sent to employees who are on vacation [2].   Some companies have implemented policies that allow employees the choice to answer work emails during weekends or vacation, without repercussions if they choose not to.

But in other cases, governments are taking the steps to make it illegal for employers to insist that workers are online and responsive outside of their contracted work hours.  Such a move takes the decision out of the employees hands, who may fear they will be passed over for advancement if they don’t immediately respond to out-of-hours emails.

For many, where they are not contracted to be ‘on-call’ or responsive to late night communications, it’s a case of etiquette. Yes, we may recognise that for some bosses late night is the perfect time to send out that email they didn’t get to during the day time. Or it was an email that slipped their mind during the daytime, and they suddenly remembered it whilst watching TV.

If you are a Boss and you know that you have the tendency to hit your emails in the evening, have THE conversation with your employees early on. This may be ‘I may email you at night, but I do not expect you to read it or reply to it until you are back at your desk in the office’. Or, ‘I will make it clear in the email title if this is something that can not wait’.

But really, unless it’s “life and death”, sure write the email but save it to drafts and send it in the morning.

What Are Your Thoughts?

[1] Wall Street Journal Facebook Post

[2.] Should it be illegal for your boss to make you email after work– FastCompany.com

What do you think?

Written by Trudy Allen

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