Fabrice alerted me to a good article at business2community.com that asks “Does Banning Out of Hours Email Increase Employee Engagement?” It’s an interesting question, very pertinent to Timyo’s mission. It’s also a question that’s been lately in the news, since, as per the article:
“New laws came into force in France on January 1, which gave employees the choice of whether to open and respond to emails outside their normal working hours. The ‘right to disconnect’, part of a portfolio of new labour laws which have sparked protests across the country, aims, among other things, to prevent burnout.”
Author Jill Wedge goes on to sum up the dilemma of email bans:
“Love it or hate it, email is a primary communication tool. And constantly checking inboxes, in and out of work, has become part of the fabric and culture of the vast majority of enterprises. If you’re a comms professional, you probably have email as a core channel in your internal comms strategy. But you’ll also be aware that staff surveys frequently record ‘too many emails’ as a negative finding. Few have found a workable solution, despite research showing that information overload impacts on employee wellbeing and engagement.”
Here then is the problem: email is an essential, central component to most any modern enterprise. However, a barrage of emails, particularly of those that come out of hours, is the cause of needless stress and anxiety to employees and employers alike.
So what’s the solution?
A blanket ban might seem to be the most obvious solution, but the problem here is that, as with so many one-size-fits-all solutions, it just may be too good to be true.
Several studies cited in the article point to different reasons why a ban on afterwork email may actually increase stress, not reduce it. This has to do with setting up strict boundaries between work life and everything else. While a strict separation may seem like a good idea, the reality is that the more separate we feel our different roles to be, the more stress we feel when we shift from one to another.
It’s true that people who bounce back and forth between “work and the rest” in their daily lives go through more “cognitive role transitions” (e.g. when you shift from thinking about what to pick up at the grocery store to remembering an important note for tomorrow’s meeting), but those who feel more flexible and easily able to move from work to home life and everything else actually experience less stress making these transitions than do those who try to adhere to a sharp divide.
More flexibility, not less, may in fact be the key.
In reality, we are all different. And while you may love the freedom to hop between different roles, it may really stress me out to respond to emails over the weekend. How can we keep your freedom to be flexible from stepping on my freedom from being hassled?
This is where Timyo comes in. Timyo lets users quickly and easily send clear expectations for when (or even if) they want a response. That means that when a thought comes to you on Sunday morning and you want to email me about it, feel free! And because you’ve let me know that:
I know I can enjoy my weekend with your email sight unseen, and get to it when I’m back to work on Monday.