Why you’re never safe from more work – even after hours

Do you shudder when your mobile phone alerts you to a work email just before you crawl into bed at night? If so, you’re not the only one.

A new survey by Right Management indicates that more than one-third of employees (36%) report receiving work-related emails after work hours. Another 6% get the boss’s emails on weekends, and 9% have to deal with those work-o-grams while on vacation.

The confluence of technology and flexible scheduling has been a boon to employees in many ways, but for some this is the dark side of that development. Being reachable at all hours – thanks to increasingly  mobile technology – also means that your hard-charging boss expects you to deal with the latest corporate crisis well after you clock out.

“The boundaries of the workplace are expanding and now reach deeper into employees’ lives, especially now that mobile technology is taken for granted,” said Monika Morrow, senior vice president of Career Management at Right Management, which provides talent, career and outplacement services. “Many find they can no longer just leave the office at the office, and instead will get emails or calls while commuting or shopping, or even sitting down to dinner. One has to ask … is this a convenience or an imposition?”
There always have been emergencies that required the attention of workers, especially managers, after hours.

But the survey findings suggest such intrusions have now become routine, not an exception. “I suppose some workers can adjust accordingly, but for others it’s added stress when they ought to be relaxing with family or friends,” Morrow said in a news release.

Many of these emails aren’t just informational. Oftentimes, after-hours messages require the receiver to take an action of some kind, which can include sending an immediate response, perhaps disturbing a good night’s sleep or a meal with the family.

Morrow worries that for more and more workers their home life is not their own and that work is never far from their minds. That’s been a trend for several years. And it doesn’t appear to be slowing down based on the results of the online survey of 422 workers that was conducted between May 16th and June 15th.

So how should employees, and management, deal with these situations? Robert Half Technology tackled the topic in a report aimed at CIOs, and the suggestions also apply to other types of workers. The tech staffing firm offered four tips to limit after-hours work:

  1. Identify the “mosts”. When every project seems to be a top priority, focus on those that will save the most money, grow the most revenue or create the most new business. Encourage your staff to use this same approach.
  2. Be realistic about internal resources. Understand your staff's workload, knowledge level and experience.
  3. Avoid micromanaging. Set milestones and regular check-ins, but otherwise let staff run initiatives when possible. Getting mired in details will slow the process.
  4. Practise the golden rule. Show respect for others’ schedules. Avoid planning meetings that, on closer inspection, aren’t necessary. Don’t keep staff waiting for feedback and approvals.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

Cellphones, Tablets Disrupt Workplace Etiquette”: Cellphones, tablets and other electronic devices are leading to more breaches in workplace etiquette, a new survey shows.

Goodbye, 9 to 5: Employers Embrace Technology-Aided Flexibility”: A substantial majority of employers are willing to allow workers to show up late at the office because bosses understand that employees are working away from their desks with the help of mobile technology, a recent survey shows.

Chris Baysden ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.