Since the global pandemic pushed us all further online, it has never been easier for employers to reach their employees.
Growing use of smartphones and tablets, at a time when working from home is blurring the lines of the 9-to-5, inevitably increases the temptation for employers to reach out with out-of-hours queries.
Dropping an employee an email or even a call to quickly check something may seem innocuous, but the more you stray down that rabbit hole, the more a dangerous precedent is being set.
Here is why that email can almost always wait until the morning.
Because employees want respect even more than money
Argylle-Leger’s 2022 study found respect and work-life balance is more important than money to most employees. And those evening emails/calls, whether they happen regularly or only occasionally, potentially undermine both respect and work-life balance in your employee’s eyes. Schedule that email to send in the morning, or at least clarify that you don’t expect an answer until the morning, and your employee will respect you for it (because respect is a two-way street after all). Reserve out-of-hours calls strictly for emergencies (real emergencies, that is). Consider also, though you don’t expect your employee to answer your email right away, it likely will still flash up on their work smart phone and intrude on their free time.
An always-in-contact employee may be an overworked employee
If an employee doesn’t feel they can take a few days, or an evening, off, it could be a sign they feel like they have too much work to do and may soon become overwhelmed. An international Monster.com survey found that 42 percent of workers had left their job due to stress. In that same study, more than a third cited work-life balance issues and 39 percent said it was the amount of work they were responsible for that convinced them to leave. Several recent studies have identified work-life balance as a key factor in employee satisfaction – and things are only getting worse in the post-pandemic workplace. Eighty-five percent of workers in a February 2021 global Harvard Business Review study said their work life was causing their personal well-being to deteriorate.
A happy worker is a more productive worker
Letting employees decompress outside of the office can provide significant retention and productivity payoffs. Establishing clear boundaries around out of hours contact – and making sure you follow them yourself! – can help reduce employee stress, improve their mental wellbeing, increase employee motivation and prevent burnout.
Sometimes it is OK to get in touch out of hours – but only sometimes
In some instances, contacting employees after-hours may be necessary. Though several studies link long hours and less vacation time to reduced well-being, Harvard Business Review research found that when workers are engaged, even with those factors in play, their well-being remains strong. The key difference? Out-of-office communication needs to be the employee’s choice — not a requirement. Dedicated workers often understand that if an urgent matter depends on them, contacting them outside of work may be required. The important thing is to empower the employee to set the boundaries themselves as far as this is possible, to respect those boundaries once established, and even then, to keep work communication to only what is essential.
If outside of hours calls and emails become a nightly occurrence, or an employee is out of the office for a week and specifically asks not to be called, employers should respect that wish. If you don’t, you risk endangering that employee’s job satisfaction and potentially losing a motivated and hard-working employee.
Remember: Your team is made of people
The most important thing to remember when sending office communication – either during normal working hours or outside of them – is that your employees are people first. Showing them enough respect to limit off-hours communication to emergencies or necessary contact only, acknowledging the boundaries they’ve asked for, and making sure that their workload is manageable within normal working hours will help keep your team happy, engaged, and part of your team.