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Work E-Mail after Hours

Some companies have restricted, if not eliminated, work e-mails after business hours. Recent headlines talk about unions in France as well as large companies in the U.S. moving towards limiting communications outside business hours as well as, theoretically, the need to pay attention to business outside business hours. What do you say to that?

Naturally, there is more than one way to look at the proposed changes. We all know some folks who live with their smartphones or other communications devices. Constantly monitoring what’s coming in, even waking up at night to check e-mail when the device lights up or sounds off. We may also know some different people who cannot wait to leave the office to turn off the work phone, ignore e-mail and enjoy an evening or weekend without electronic interruption.

What matters in making such a choice should not be so much personality or personal preference but, rather the needs of the specific business and your position in it as well as the definition of business hours. For example, a doctor on call is literally at work – business hours – for the entire period he or she is on call. No problem, the communications must be received and addressed. And we are not talking about communications for those rare and serious situations where a rule blocking communications is not helpful. This might be a police officer or fire fighter who, though not on duty, is needed because of something out of the ordinary.

Fortunate or not, most of us are not doctors or police officers and really are not needed 24-7. Frankly, we are just not that important and what we do is not so critical that we need to be constantly on the alert. Now some entrepreneurs and small business owners will tell you that they are always available but that is both personal choice and their perceived need for their business. Hopefully they understand that their employees – who are without the same interests and responsibilities – do not need to be there to respond to the 3:30 AM e-mail from the boss asking about a client coming in next week. 

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