Our Email Addiction After Work Hours

While France and Germany figure out ways to provide their workers with some more work-life balance, the U.S. is, well:

2012 survey by the Center for Creative Leadership found that 60 percent of smartphone-using professionals kept in touch with work for a full 13.5 hours per day, and then spent another 5 hours juggling work email each weekend. That’s 72 hours a week of job-related contact. Another survey of 1,000 workers by Good Technology, a mobile-software firm, found that 68 percent checked work email before 8 a.m., 50 percent checked it while in bed, and 38 percent “routinely” did so at the dinner table. Fully 44 percent of working adults surveyed by the American Psychological Association reported that they check work email daily while on vacation—about 1 in 10 checked it hourly. It only gets worse as you move up the ladder. According to the Pew Research Center, people who make more than $75,000 per year are more likely to fret that their phone makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about work.

Over time, the creep of off-hours messages from our bosses and colleagues has led us to tolerate these intrusions as an inevitable part of the job, which is why it’s so startling when an employer is actually straightforward with his lunatic demands, as with the notorious emaila Quinn Emanuel law partner sent to his underlings back in 2009: “Unless you have very good reason not to (for example when you are asleep, in court or in a tunnel), you should be checking your emails every hour.”

That’s from Clive Thompson at Mother Jones looking at the expectations of modern workers in the U.S. during their off-hours (at jobs where email is used, in any case). In one study Thompson looked at, employees convinced their bosses to decrease the amount of email they used to communicate with each other. The result: Happier employees, and they still got all their work done.

Photo: Buzzfarmers

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11 Comments / Post A Comment

wallrock (#1,003)

I’m absolutely terrible about checking my email after hours. It’s to the point where my phone is the last thing I look at before falling asleep and the first thing I grab in the morning (granted, it is also my alarm). I’m also leaving for vacation tomorrow and I’ll be bringing both my phone and my tablet so I can keep up on things while I’m out.

M Ra (#3,295)

I haven’t been asked/told to put my work email on my phone,– or get a second work phone, so I haven’t done it. I’ll check email before bed or when I wake up if I happen to have brought my computer home to work on something. I really want to maintain this practice as long as possible because I feel like it’s the only way to keep my work-life balance. Yes, I get 2am emails from my boss, but they don’t need my 2am attention.

One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself was decide to NEVER HAVE WORK EMAIL ON MY PHONE.

CaddyFdot (#2,686)

@M Ra Yup, I am one of the few people in my office that didn’t put work email on their phone. I don’t travel often, and I have web access to work email from home/other computers. If I’m not at the office or at home (and work-busy enough to be checking from home), I do NOT need to be paying more attention to work. My coworkers have my cell phone number, so if it’s an emergency, they can call; if it’s not enough of an emergency to feel comfortable calling, then it doesn’t really need my attention after all.

sherlock (#3,599)

@CaddyFdot I’ve had a work phone for about eight months now. Before that, I didn’t have a smartphone, so I would occasionally check in from my personal computer in the evening, but in rare situations where I thought it was necessary.

Just last night, my work phone was having problems and wasn’t working, and I was SHOCKED at how nervous it made me not to be able to check email. I logged in on my personal computer to check it several times throughout the course of the evening, and was relieved that the phone was up and running again this morning.

I was really unnerved to see what a change it’s clearly had on my habits. So yes, avoid if at all possible!

sherlock (#3,599)

@CaddyFdot Also replying to CaddyFdot’s comment about “if it’s an emergency they can call” point – I agree with that SO much. When I first got the work phone, this is what pissed me off the most. I feel like emailing after-hours/weekend requests is kind of cowardly in a way – like it allows the person making the request to not have to confront the fact that they’re infringing on your personal time. If it’s not something that you would be willing to pick up the phone and ask me to do, you shouldn’t be asking, period.

calamity (#2,577)

I have no work email on my phone, and while I check my personal email on my browser, the first time I tried to set up my iPhone’s regular mailbox to load my gmail account, it didn’t work. By the time I got around to figuring out what was going on, I realized that I actually LIKE having to take those extra few steps to get into my mailbox – it’s pretty nice, not having that red number yelling at from my home screen about all the emails I’ve received and haven’t replied to.

rhinoceranita (#5,858)

I put my work email on my phone because the other 2/3 of the office is in London and I’m on EST. *shrugs* Also getting emails makes me feel like I’m important.

Best thing ever stolen from my luggage by airport security: my Blackberry on the first leg of a 3 week vacation.

Heather F G (#6,074)

The job I had before my current one discouraged me from putting in more than my regular amount of hours because of budget things since I wasn’t salaried, but after too many mornings having a little heart attack every time I opened Outlook, I got into the habit of sneaking on remote access in the evenings so I could strategize at night and relax (not “relax”, per se, but at least maintain normal levels of adrenaline before Coffee #1) when I got to my desk in the morning. It’s amazing how many clever solutions come to you when you’re mulling over worst-case scenarios while hitting snooze.

Related: the “Do I really want to know?” factor was really similar to Internet stalking an ex.

drydenlane (#5,919)

I’m hourly, underemployed, and dislike my job; I do not check my work e-mail outside of office hours.

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