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Hey, Managers: Stop Emailing Your Employees at Night


Mobile technology was supposed to set us free from the tyranny of the 9-to-5, allowing workers to escape the office and plug in wherever they happened to be, and work when inspiration struck. Instead, studies show, improvements in technology have blurred the boundaries between work-time and personal-time, and changed managers’ expectations of the managed. In short, many bosses and employers now expect workers to check their email at night, on the weekends, even on vacation. The result? Workers are getting mad, and getting less done.

emailing after hours

(Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo)

A recent study from the University of Texas at Arlington examined the responses of 341 test subjects to emails received after hours. From the abstract:

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Hierarchical linear modeling results suggested that both affective tone and time required were associated with anger, but only affective tone was associated with happiness. Further, anger was associated with work-to-nonwork conflict and mediated the effects of affective tone and time required on work-to-nonwork conflict.

Translation? People were mad. They were especially upset when emailed by their bosses.

“No shocker here: People showed more anger when emails came from a supervisor rather than a regular co-worker, because they felt compelled to stop and respond,” writes Courtney D. at XOVain. “Even if you have one of those ‘cool bosses’ who says he or she doesn’t expect you to answer email over the weekend, it really sucks to know you have a message sitting in your inbox that has to be addressed at some point.”

In fact, the guessing game itself can be emotionally exhausting. Thanks to always-on mobile devices, many workers know the second an email appears. Once that alert pops up, they have to decide whether or not to check it, and then reply. All of this is energy and head space that could be used to either do actual work or recharge their mental batteries.

The irony is that being always connected is hurting our productivity, not helping it. Research shows that checking email on smartphones late at night leads to being less engaged at the office the next day. Then there’s the effects of the stress associated with being accountable to so many different methods of communication, and yes, the potential decline in work quality that ensues when workers are angry with their managers all the time.

Bottom line, if you want to get the most out of your employees, take the night off, yourself. You might even find that your work improves with a few hours off per day.

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Does your boss email you after hours? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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I had a drama queen boss who was on vacation, and knew I was up against a tight deadline. Yet he kept sending angry emails faster than I could respond to them. I finally sent one last email, informing him that I was shutting down my email so that I could meet the deadline which he had imposed prior to his departure. That job came to a bad end, but I had the smarts to forward those emails to myself… Read more »

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