Joy is Good Business

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The Trouble with Off-Hours Emails (Beyond the Obvious)

Responsiveness is a prized working trait in many industries, especially for those who have clients or customers. Additionally, working remotely has exacerbated the feelings of needing to be “always-on.” So, when team members receive emails or other electronic messages during off-hours, the engrained need to be responsive quickly kicks in.

A recent study found that “receivers assumed they needed to respond 36 percent faster to off-hours work emails than senders expected. What’s more, the receivers reported feeling more stressed by off-hours work emails than senders expected them to feel, and the stress associated with this unnecessary pressure resulted in lower subjective well-being.”

This may not be surprising. Yet, leaders still send messages when it is easiest for them. Many have gotten better at communicating that they don’t need a response until the morning. But, here’s the thing—the message can still induce stress.

Your team member will likely still read the message so whether they respond or not, it is now in their head. Just because you’ve given permission to not respond does not mean that your team member won’t stress about it.

A more effective technique is to use the “Delay Send” option in email. Send it in the morning—not first thing because it may still be disruptive if you send it at 6:00 am but send it when the employee usually starts their workday.

All this said, there may still be times when you do need an immediate response to an off-hour message. When this does happen, your team members will more happily respond if they understand that this is a one-off situation, rather than the norm.


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