“Don’t take your work home with you!” — said no one ever. But it’s nice to hear, isn’t it? In reality, our work (and phone) follows us everywhere. The growing popularity of business collaboration tools, while improving how teams work together, makes it difficult to truly “switch off” from work once we step outside the office. It's especially difficult to establish those workplace boundaries when your team is remote.
Just ask around at work and you’ll hear some interesting stories, like your co-workers who routinely check email after business hours at 2 a.m. and reply because of a fear of missing out (FOMO). It signals a culture of always having to be on and accessible. Well, I’m here to tell you that texting or emailing after hours is for the birds, even if they are a part of your Flock. ;)
Working after the workday ends can lead to anxiety, stress, and creative burnouts. What’s more, it makes achieving work-life balance an elusive goal for your employees.
The thing is, governments around the world are now waking up to the problem. France and Italy’s ‘right to disconnect’ laws now ban after-hours work emails. Germany has been considering ‘anti-stress’ legislation that aims to do the same thing, while NYC councilman Rafael Espinal is proposing legislation to make sure that private employees cannot be forced into electronic communication contact outside of paid working hours.
Closer to home here in India, a similar Right to Disconnect Bill is being considered by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament). Put together, this represents a big change from the old “work-it-till-you-make-it” school of business that assumes it’s perfectly alright for bosses to text employees after hours.
So, should you text employees after hours?
Legally, unless you operate in one of the few countries that have already made it illegal, you can text your employees during, before, and after business hours. But before you do, a note of caution: Do it only in an emergency.
For managers, try putting yourself in your employee’s shoes for a moment. Would you reply to a work email from your boss during a family dinner?
As The Atlantic says in ‘Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore’, when people work long or unreliable hours, the effects ripple far and wide. Families pay the steepest price. Not to mention, unhappy, anxiety-ridden, and stressed employees are less motivated to give their best at work.
The onus is on businesses to better manage organizational expectations of how and when their employees communicate. Our advice: Keep work talk to working hours. Your employees will appreciate being treated as people and not resources.