With increasing modes of technology and growing demands in the corporate workplace, our society has failed to contain business-related matters to workdays. Whether it’s sneaking email responses under the dinner table, or texting co-workers right before you go to bed, today’s work climate has produced an inordinate amount of pressure to be “on-call”.
As a busy mom and the owner of a successful market research firm, I too am guilty of contributing to this growing epidemic. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, workers spend more than a quarter of their workweek sifting through emails. Another recent survey revealed that 28% check work email “routinely,” peeking at the phone under the table, and half check it before they get out of bed in the morning.
Though it may seem impossible to limit workplace email during off-hours, its importance has already taken root in several other countries. German companies Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom for example, have enacted policies limiting work-related emails for employees at night and on weekends. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the Toronto office of Edelman, a global public relations firm, created the “7-to-7” rule where employees are strongly discouraged from emailing one another before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m.
So how can workers in the United States experience this sort of digital freedom? The change must begin at the top. When a boss regularly sends “high-priority” emails late at night, it indicates a lack of concern for a work-life balance. Limiting these types of off-hours communications is both humane and efficient.
Encouraging employees to experience a healthy work-life balance not only promotes mental health outside of the office – it also promotes a sense of confidence in the workplace. When we have time to decompress, we feel more at ease to make choices and focus on the task at hand. Employees are also more inclined to start using phone calls and face-to-face conversations to resolve issues quickly, rather than relying on email alone.
While the idea of eliminating all off-hours email is a commendable goal, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Whether it’s a company crisis or a high priority deadline, late night communication will occur from time to time. But by leading organizations from the mindset of balance and sanity first, we can create a workplace environment of harmony and success.
So put the phone down, walk away from the computer, and remember it’s not only okay to disconnect; it’s absolutely necessary.