In today’s fast-paced work environment, it’s increasingly common for employees and business owners alike to receive work-related emails and communication outside of their normal working hours. While some may believe that being available and responsive outside of work hours increases productivity, research suggests that this practice can have a negative impact on well-being and job performance.
According to an Academy of Management study, an “always-on” culture with high expectations to monitor and respond to emails during non-work time may prevent people from fully disengaging from work, leading to chronic stress and emotional exhaustion. Let’s take a closer look at the major negative repercussions of after-hours email communication and explore some tips for both business owners to avoid the negative effects and make life better for themselves and their employees.
The Negative Effects of After-Hours Email Communication
The expectation to respond to emails after hours can lead to emotional exhaustion and chronic stress. In this condition it’s common to get tunnel vision, to lose the ability to effectively prioritize tasks and to get stuck in an ongoing “crisis mode”.
Increased Risk, Decreased Productivity
Multitasking by juggling work-related emails and other activities simultaneously can result in decreased productivity, and can even put you at risk. You or your empolyees may be tempted to check emails while driving, literally putting yourself and those around you in harm’s way.
Lack of Work-Life Balance
The adverse effects of feeling the need to respond to after-hours emails are most significant for those who strongly wish to keep their work and family lives separate. The insistence on after-hours email availability impedes their good intentions, leading to frustration and affecting overall productivity.
Tips for Avoiding the Negative Effects of After-Hours Email Communication
Set up an Out of Office Notice
Consider setting up a notice on your phone and messaging services describing your work hours and next open availability, redirecting people to services like Calendly, to book themselves the next available time slot or session.
Turn off Push Notifications
Consider disabling push notifications on your mobile device, which may alert you every time you receive an email, Slack message, instant message, or other forms of communication. Set up your push notifications to inform you of emails or messages only from those on your VIP list.
Boost Productivity by Closing Browser Tabs
Avoid leaving your email application open and close Facebook, Slack, and other messaging channels as well. Instead, establish a schedule for checking emails. More than three times a day, should be considered too much.
Set Screen Time Limits
Eliminating screen time is a good way to get a break on the weekends. Consider having “unplugged Sundays,” where you avoid looking at any electronics for the entire day. You can also consider checking email only once or twice over the weekend.
Tips for Business owners to Promote Wellness
Set Clear Expectations
Business owners should be aware of the negative effects of after-hours email communication and set clear expectations for their availability outside of work hours, communicating them to suppliers and customers alike.
Promote Work-Life Balance
By encouraging yourself to be less available by email during your off hours, business owners not only promote a healthier work-life balance for themselves and their employees but also help reduce stress, which can ultimately increase satisfaction, performance and overall happiness.
It’s a mistake to assume that “always available” means anything good. Encouraging yourself to be available and responsive outside of work hours, has more negative effects than positive and can be detrimental to well-being and job performance.
A far better idea would be to take proactive steps to avoid the negative effects by prioritizing wellness and work-life balance, creating a positive and productive dynamic with customers, suppliers and employees alike.