On January 1, a new law went into effect in France that required companies with at least 50 employees to designate specific hours during which workers could send and answer emails — and which hours they could not.
With the passage of the law, now is as good a time as any to take a step back and assess your organization’s email policy. Does your company require employees to answer emails around the clock? Or do you generally frown when workers are constantly in their inboxes?
If you expect your workers to stay glued to their email all day long, you may want to reconsider. Not only is that not the most effective use of time, reducing after-hours emails can benefit your employees in a number of ways.
For starters, employees won’t ever be able to enjoy a good work-life balance if they’re forced to always glance at their inboxes and respond to messages. In order to reach their full potential in the office, workers need to be able to enjoy time outside of the office, so they can relax and recharge their batteries. Your employees deserve to be able to hang out with their friends and families without having to check their phones every few minutes.
What’s more, when employees are expected to be reachable by email nearly 24 hours a day, their jobs can become even more stressful than they already are. That’s not good, especially when you consider the following statistics:
- 83% of US workers are stressed on the job
- 60% to 80% of workplace accidents are caused by stress
- Stress causes $300 billion in lost productivity each year
- Stressed employees spend 46% more on health care
- Nearly 70% of employees feel that they have too much work on their plates
Suffice it to say, reducing employee stress is always in a company’s best interest.
Still, a recent report from Gallup indicated that 33% of the workforce regularly checks their emails after the work day ends — whether or not they’re required to. Not all of these individuals hate the fact that they work outside “normal hours” either.
When workers are engaged, they don’t necessarily mind taking a few minutes here and there to check their inboxes or write quick messages. The more you check your inbox, the less likely you’ll be greeted by hundreds of unread messages when you to head into the office in the morning. Some workers find that by dealing with their email during the evening, they’re able to get a head start on the work they need to do the following day.
So should your organization have a specific after-hours email ban? Probably not, if for no other reason than you don’t want to discourage your engaged employees from staying on top of their inboxes if they want to. At the same time, you don’t want to force everyone to stay glued to their email 24 hours a day.
An easy way to reduce the stress of after-hours emails is to require senders to include an expected response time in each message sent at night. For example, you might indicate that no immediate response is required, but one over the next day or two would be wonderful. This way, recipients won’t feel as though they had to drop everything right away to reply.
Whether your company needs an after-hours email policy depends on your specific situation. Regardless of your decision, you should still focus on increasing employee engagement across the board at your company. Everybody approaches work differently, so give your employees the freedom to check their email and send out messages whenever they want to. As long as they stay on top of their work and don’t miss any important meetings, does it really matter when they refresh their inboxes or drop a note to their coworkers?
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