The term "always-on" (a state that describes the always active, operating and powered state of the Internet) has permeated into the working culture. Understandably so, because businesses are constantly striving to uncover new competitive advantages and refine their current proficiencies; this overall mandate also has impacted employees gravely.
Classical example: it's almost midnight, and you suddenly realise that you forgot to mention something vital to your team members regarding a certain project. What do you do? You scribble a short email and send it immediately, so you don't forget.
In most instances, you will have one or two people respond to your email, either acknowledging receipt or offering additional thoughts. Depending on the severity of the task, a long communication thread might ensue.
As a manager, you might think that you're ensuring the efficiency of your team, right? Well, no! You might just be doing more harm than good.
Emails sent after working hours might accelerate your business goals (and by extension, move the company towards its financial goal), but the adverse effect is that it gradually wears away at the creativity, innovation and productivity of your workers.
This is because your workers need distance - time away from the office where they can recharge physically, and above all, mentally. It is at this point their brains can rest, recharge and gain a new perspective.
As opposed to sending an email right that moment, why not save it in your draft box and send it out at a much more reasonable time?
While some Managers might not expect any response from their team, they might (or not) be aware of the fact that they're sending an indirect message: "If I'm working you should you be too." Other reasons why employees respond to late-night emails include:
Gross ambition - many employees might want to stand out and impress their superiors so that they can get that positive annual review or promotion.
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) - some other employees, who typically consider themselves as front runners of a project don't want to be feel left out and will go to drastic lengths to show that. As a Manager, your after-hours communication might be feeding this "condition."
It is the imperative of the Manager to kerb this unproductive habit by doing some of the following:
1) Have crystal clear expectations about email (and other forms of) communications, and institute policies that champions a much more humane/healthy culture that values employee's downtime away from the office (e.g. prohibiting contact via email from 10:00 pm - 7:00 am)
2) Re-examine managerial attitudes and beliefs to ensure that they're not consciously or unconsciously propagating a negative "always-on" work culture. Numerous studies have stated that working long hours does, in fact, decrease - not improve - employee productivity and engagement.
So the next time you're about to send that "quick note" to your team, ask yourself this question: "Can this information wait for another couple of hours?" If it's not a life or death situation, give it some time - your workers productivity depends on it.
Written by Sandra McLeod @Locomote