We hear it time and time again how vital it is to disconnect from work, allowing yourself the necessary time to decompress and unwind. And in return, you come to the office recharged and prepared to kick butt as a top performer full of fresh-thinking ideas.
Along the way, it can be easy to lose sight of how precious and necessary our personal life is as we allow work to spill over into that sacred time. Just like the overwhelming majority of the working population with a smartphone nearby, we are not only checking our email, but sending them hours after we have left the office.
So what is the big deal?
There are plenty of naysayers out there who argue that sending any form of communication outside of regular business hours is not as big a deal as we make it. “Optimizing your energy,” is what some critics call it. This simply means, your body has just the right amount of energy to perform minor tasks like email triage because it doesn’t require much energy.
The flip side to that is the lasting affect it has on your colleagues and the overall work culture of the company. Sure, it may sound a bit dramatic at first thought, but there are a few things to consider that will explain why sending emails after hours can be damaging.
1. Added Pressure
The phrase “lead by example” should not be taken lightly. At times, employees can feel pressured to respond to emails if their leader has been known to contact them after business hours, or even worse, while on vacation. If you choose to email someone with a task or question, provide the expectation up front on whether it’s necessary to respond at that time or if the reply can wait. This will make the recipient more comfortable with what’s being asked of them.
Every now and then, it can be natural to have work spill over into our personal lives, but frequent communications that have no time restraints can lead to a burn out. When thinking about the work/life balance in your team’s or even your own life, are you really allowing yourself to decompress and recharge for the following day? If you need to remember to contact someone, make a note of it so you won’t forget. If you feel the need to respond to an email, ask yourself if it can wait until the morning.
3. Compromised Personal Time
"It's not only that employees are spending a certain amount of extra time answering emails," says author Samantha Conroy, "but it's that they feel they have to be ready to respond and they don't know what the request will be." These feelings can compromise the level of attention you have on personal activities. Are you on your smartphone while at the playground with your children, at dinner with friends or binge-watching your latest TV obsession? Disconnecting is more than just a way to improve your work life – it’s also a way to improve your home and social life.
Is there a Solution?
Some companies have gone as far as implementing a company-wide freeze on emails—disabling email servers between set business hours. Others have created work policies strictly prohibiting emails from being sent after a certain time. Or you can just follow the general rule: while evenings may be an ideal work time for some, it’s not ideal for everyone. If you’re the one composing an email, be cognizant of others’ time before you hit the send button. If you’ve become the type of person to casually look at your phone so emails don’t pile up, think about the implications of how that extra time isn’t allowing you to recharge. In the grand scheme of life, emails can wait. Focus on being present wherever you are and be considerate of how your actions affect others.