In this enlightening article, discover the effects of after-hours work emails on your personal life and mental health. It divulges the reasons behind the same and offers compelling solutions for handling such situations. Learn how striking the right work-life balance can bring you peace and productivity.
We all know the drill: we’re supposed to leave work at work. But in the age of the smartphone, it’s all too easy to get sucked into the black hole of after-hours email.
There are a few risks with emails after work hours that are worth considering before you hit “send” on that next after-hours message.
The Risks of Sending Emails After Work Hours
A few dangers come with sending and receiving emails after working hours though it is not illegal.
The recipient may not see your email right away
If you send an email outside of regular work hours, the recipient may not immediately see your email. They may be busy with other things and won’t have time to check their email until the next day. By then, your email will be buried under a bunch of other messages.
Most people do not check their email after they have clocked out for the day. If you need a quick response, it is best to send your email during working hours.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an after-hours email, you know how frustrating it can be. Maybe it’s a colleague who wants to continue a discussion that could have waited until the next day, or when your boss emails you after hours expecting you to sacrifice your evening plan and answer a question immediately. Whatever the case, after-hours work emails can be disruptive and add unnecessary stress to your life.
William Becker, an associate professor of management at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business, co-authored a study that shows when employers expect employees to answer emails after work hours, it makes them anxious, which is bad for their health and the health of their families.
Damage to coworker relationships
If you send work emails after 6 pm, the recipient may also be offended by your attempts to contact them outside of work hours. They may think you’re trying to invade their personal time, and they might not appreciate it.
You should also avoid sending emails after hours because it can make you look like you’re not respecting the recipient’s time. If you need to communicate with someone outside of work hours for any emergency, try using a different method, such as keeping a text message briefing the situation and requesting him or her to call back.
Lack of work-life balance and danger of burnout
Chyi-Huey Bai, a Professor in the Department of Public Health, has done a study on Long Hours’ Effects on Work-Life Balance and Satisfaction. The study showed direct correlations between long work hours, occupational stress, and work-life balance.
Frustration and tension will grow when you are too busy to spend time with your family because you are not getting disconnected from work and enjoying personal time. It will add more pressure and stress.
Checking and replying to emails is part of the work. If you’re constantly checking and responding to emails outside of work hours, you’re not truly giving yourself a chance to relax and recharge. This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed, which can eventually lead to burnout.
There is a misconception that the longer you work, the more productive you will be. But this is not true.
After-hour work emails can decrease productivity because they can cause employees to feel overwhelmed and stressed. People lose focus when they are tired and stressed. This can lead to employees taking longer to complete tasks, and it can also lead to them making more mistakes and reworking. All these lead to less productivity.
How to Avoid Sending & Responding to Work Emails After Hours
After all the points I’ve made, I hope you agree: sending and receiving emails after work hours is not good for your physical and mental health. But this bad habit is easy to get into, even after knowing all the facts. So, now I will share a few tips to avoid sending or attending to emails after working hours.
Manage your expectations
When you manage your expectations, you are in control of your emotions. You know what to expect, and you are not easily disappointed. This is especially important when it comes to email.
You will likely be disappointed if you expect an immediate response to every email you send, even after business hours. And when you’re disappointed, it’s easy to get angry. When you get angry, it’s easy to say things and do things you regret. So, try to manage your expectations. If it can wait a few hours or even a day, send the email after working hours or first thing the next morning.
Change the habit
You are in charge of what you do. So, try to get things done within working hours and say goodbye to emails or other work-related stuff till the next morning. Set your own rules for contacting staff after business hours.
Set limits if you have to attend to emails in the evening. Perhaps you allocate 20 minutes to check and respond to emails. Try to be mindful of the time you’re spending on it. Ensure you’re not letting it eat into your personal time more than you’re comfortable with.
Use an email scheduling tool
Everyone in the organization needs to work together to cut down on email traffic after hours. If you send no email after work hours, your colleagues won’t get any! It works that way.
If you ever have to send emails after work hours, try using an email scheduling tool. This will allow you to compose messages and schedule them to be sent later. This feature is available for all major email clients, e.g., Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, and Yahoo. That way, you can still send emails without bothering your colleagues until they get online the next day.
A few quick tutorials on how to schedule an email in different mail clients and platforms are given below:
Using a custom after-hours email signature
A custom-made email signature for after-hours could be helpful, especially if you work for a global company. People who get your emails, even if they’re on the other side of the world, will know when you work by looking at your email signature.
Below is an example of after-hours email signature.
My working hours are from UTC 11:00 to 19:00, so I’m sending this message now. Feel free to read, act on or respond at a time that works for you.
Turn off your email notifications
Sometimes, we can get a little too attached to our emails. We feel the need to check it constantly or reply to messages immediately, even if we’re outside of work hours. If you find yourself in this situation, there is one thing you can do. Turn off your email notifications and take a break from checking your inbox. Relax and recharge to be fresh and ready for the next workday. Whatever emails are coming into your inbox can wait till the next day.
A few quick tutorials on how to turn off email notifications in different mail clients and platforms are given below:
Recommended reading: Using Work Email For Personal Use is a Bad Thing – 5 Reasons Why?
Set up an auto-responder
If you want to ensure you don’t get loads of emails after working hours, you can set up an auto-response message in your email client. This message will pop up in your colleague’ (inside your organization) email app even before they hit the ‘Send’ button. And the same message will automatically be sent to anyone (inside or outside of the organization) who tries to email you after your chosen cutoff time.
For further knowledge, you can read this article where Hubspot discussed 3 reasons why you should use auto-response emails.
A few quick tutorials on how to set ‘Out of office’ replies in different mail clients and platforms are given below:
A very simple after-hours email example is as follows:
You can check out more than 30 after-hours email response templates from the GoCRM blog.
Out-of-office messages or auto-responders are a great way to inform the sender that you are now out of work and set their expectation of getting a reply.
After-hours emailing can be tempting, but knowing its dangers is essential. So, if you ask me, should I respond to emails after hours? Unless urgent, don’t reply to work emails after 6 pm whenever possible. If it is urgent, be mindful of the time you spend on it and set some limits. You can help avoid the dangers and enjoy a healthy work-life balance.
FAQ on the Risks of Sending Emails After Hours
Is it unprofessional to send an email after hours?
It is generally considered unprofessional to send an email after hours unless it is an emergency. The person you are sending an email might be spending personal time with friends and family. Your emails could look like a disturbance in his or her personal life.
Is it unprofessional to send an email late at night?
If you send emails late at night, it indicates you can’t finish your tasks on time and have to work late to get them done. If it only happens in rare emergencies, it’s okay. If not, sending work emails late at night is never seen as a professional thing to do.
Is it OK to send an email after 5 pm?
A good rule of thumb for balancing work and life is to leave work at work and start having fun after business hours. American business hours are usually from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. So, after 5 p.m. should be your time to relax, and you should help others do the same. So, sending emails after 5 p.m. is not a good idea. But it’s okay if you need something quickly or your business has different hours.
Is it illegal to contact employees after work?
This question has no definitive answer, as it can depend on the specific circumstances and laws in the jurisdiction where the employees work. In general, it is not illegal to contact employees after work hours if the contact is related to work matters and is not harassing or intrusive.
Are employers allowed to contact you outside of working hours?
This question has no definitive answer, as it depends on the employer’s policies and the employee’s contract. Employers are generally allowed to contact employees outside of work hours if it is for a legitimate work-related purpose and is not excessive.
Hello! Welcome to UplifeWay.com, where I, Rifat Hossain, share my zeal for all things tech. With an academic foundation in Advanced Engineering Management and my current role as a Digital Services Manager at Coats, I’ve gained a unique perspective on technology in the professional landscape. My expertise with Microsoft 365 products, fortified by my certification as a trainer, has shown me the transformative power of the right tools in boosting efficiency and productivity. Driven by a desire to empower others to fully utilize technology, I established UplifeWay.com. This blog is more than a resource—it’s a beacon for those eager to master Microsoft Office applications and improve their digital literacy. UplifeWay.com is a testament to my dedication to promoting ‘smart working’. I invite you to embark on this exciting exploration with me, where we’ll elevate our working prowess to unprecedented levels. Let’s journey into the world of smart productivity together on UplifeWay.com.