Your stories: Out-of-hours work emailson June 3, 2021 at 2:01 pm

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What do our readers think of receiving work emails outside of office hours?

Rachel Habergham and Bob Hallewell

Calls for a ban on out-of-hours work emails have generated a lot of debate among our readers.

The right to disconnect has been law for four years in France, where companies are asked to set agreed “specific hours” for “teleworkers”.

Ireland also brought in a code of practice last month, under which employers should add “footers and pop-up messages to remind employees… that there is no requirement to reply to emails out of hours”.

The Prospect trade union, whose members include managers, civil servants, engineers and scientists, wants the UK government to set out similar protections in its Employment Bill, expected to be published later this year.

Many readers agreed with the proposal, while others felt that it would not be practical, or desirable.

Here is a selection of your views.

Bob Hallewell

image copyrightBob Hallewell

Bob Hallewell, who works for a company which advises businesses on electronic communication, says email “is a common problem which is easily solved”.

“We all know how to send lots of copies, but we don’t know how not to send.

“It’s a common problem because people don’t necessarily think about what the whole effect of their message is going to be on the recipient.”

He says people send messages on a Sunday evening to finish their to-do list, but “the person who gets it thinks, “Dear Lord, am I supposed to be answering emails on a Sunday evening as well?”

“The easy way out is for the organisation to agree common standards,” he says, “and one of the most useful standards is “what is the expected response time for emails?”

Rachel Habergham

image copyrightRachel Habergham

Rachel Habergham works in the public sector and thinks banning emails outside office hours “would set us back years”.

“People need to be able to email at a time that works for them” if the UK wants an inclusive workforce, she says, “the key is everyone respecting that”.

“Not everyone should feel as though they have to reply. This can be done in many ways including simple messages on e-mail signatures.

“Banning out-of-office emails will just further disadvantage people who are carers, parents or disabled.”

A woman who works for the civil service in London told us the organisation “has pretty clear expectations around number of hours worked, but flexibility to work when you like”.

“I often leave work early then pick up work later in the evening,” she says, adding that she has an email signature which says she does not expect a response outside normal working hours.

“As long as you set an expectation for your team that they don’t need to respond then I think it’s OK.”

She said in her previous private sector jobs, “they do expect you to be super-responsive,” so it’s all about the “culture” of a company.

Richard Andrews is retired, but used to work in banking. He says there are “serious compromises that would be needed”.

He says he worked a 35-hour-week but would often deal with emails after returning home, between 80 and 100 daily.

He thinks this “quite likely contributed to a stroke I suffered five years ago,” which led him to voluntary retirement.

“I estimate I was paid for approximately 75% of the actual hours worked.

“Whilst no one is indispensable there is peer pressure, management and board pressure to get the job done and I’m sad to admit that, at times, it felt at any cost.”

Phil Coldicott, a retired IT manager, says emails were a “fundamental element” of his job.

He says he doesn’t “see any need to suppress email output, as it reflects when people wish to work”.

His team worked flexibly, but he says he preferred early starts while others preferred to work very late.

He says his team didn’t look at emails until they were back at their desks.

“I had a boss who used to send emails between midnight and 0100 every day. That’s the way he worked.

“You didn’t have to respond to them. Some people work in different ways, and we just have to accommodate.”

“It’s a question of time management,” he tells us, “I can’t see why regulation is necessary to be honest.”

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