Contributed by Stefano Maifreni, founder and director of Eggcelerate.
We’ve all been there—working outside hours, trying to get ahead or catch up. But sending emails to staff during their downtime can backfire badly. And here’s why …
In 2019, the average office worker received 90 emails per day. But it’s the occasional messages sent by bosses to their team members late at night or at weekends that can have negative consequences—particularly on your culture.
It happens all too easily. We’re trying to clear a backlog of work or prepare for the week ahead, getting ready for meetings, bids or projects. Sending an email to team members may be the last job left to round things off before we finally head to bed.
But don’t do it.
There are plenty of obvious reasons why it’s better to wait until we’re behind our desks. When it’s late and you’re tired, your email is more likely to include mistakes. Maybe the tone of voice is too blunt. Or you send the message to the wrong group. Depending on your staff members’ mobile alert settings, the message may also wake them up.
Sending emails at 3 am is more acceptable if your business operates in different time zones or your team is working on night shifts or at weekends. But if these reasons don’t apply, these emails can send out deeply negative signals.
What it says about your company culture
These emails will impact your company culture. Sending that message on Saturday, during a holiday, or late at night sends the message that you (and your organization) don’t respect your team and their need for time off. They can’t escape work. It never stops. And this may make them want to leave.
Worse still, if the email conveys something negative, such as extra work and pressure, this could ruin their time off. They’ll resent you.
What it says about you
As a leader, you set an example. People may believe the way to win praise and get noticed in the company is by working in their free time. Staff may think you’re obsessed with business and don’t have a life outside work.
In broader terms, those late-night messages may suggest that you can’t organize yourself properly. It may give the sense that you’re underwater or behind.
So what’s the right answer?
For many of us business leaders, it’s second nature to occasionally work in the evenings and at weekends. It is often a necessity. In truth, there’s a limit to how much we can change this. But we can work to make improvements.
- Firstly, don’t send that 3 am email, just because it gives you that sense of completion. Save it into your Drafts folder, ready for the next working day. Make a note to send it then.
- Allocate time for planning in your schedule each week. Identify times to communicate important briefings to your team.
- Set boundaries to protect your own personal downtime. Sending flurries of weekend emails is a sure sign there’s something out of kilter that needs addressing.
- Give yourself the rest and sleep you need.
Stefano Maifreni is the founder and director of Eggcelerate, which helps companies succeed with their business challenges in effective and profitable ways.