As a business coach for over two decades, it has become my passion to help others take control of their to-do lists and work less while creating more value for their businesses. But for many of us, we feel like a 70 hour work week is the norm. Everyone is doing it, so it makes sense that we too should work that many hours. If other business owners are correct, we should be tied to our cell phones and laptops, because that is the way that business gets done. 

But just because others are doing it, doesn't make it right. 

The same is true for your employees. They may be so used to getting emails and texts on weekends and during the evening hours that they don't really know any other way. I see this a lot when onboarding a new employee into our own company culture. Here at Maui Mastermind, the work stops at five o'clock. There are no emails, no text messages and no phone calls. We make it a point to spend time with our friends and family and enjoy our time off. But when someone new joins the team, they may out of habit still send emails and text during off hours, and it's important to address it early on to protect your company culture. 

An Adult Conversation

This first step to address the issue is to have an adult conversation. Ask the new team member (or your team as a whole if you feel appropriate) if they think obsessively answering email or interrupting their day to filter and screen their inbox or feeds increases or decreases the value they bring to the company.  Explore if and when being available during off hours actually helps the company. 

Finally, as a team lay out what a more sane set of expectations might look like.  For many businesses, messaging can stop at the end of the workday and workweek. If your business requires more responsiveness, perhaps you can establish schedules for who needs to cover nights and weekends. Remember that even in 24/7 industries, from medicine to security to tech, employees have time off. Companies in these industries use shifts to simultaneously ensure full coverage and healthy lifestyles. Your company should too.

In Case of An Emergency

Of course, emergencies do come up in any field, so you should establish a procedure for handling them. But, even as you establish these safeguards, be sure to clarify that emergencies don't come up daily or weekly or even monthly. They come up one or two or three times a year. They're one in five thousand.

Make it Okay to Talk about Availability and Accessibility

If you want to change the culture, you need to give people permission to discuss it. Periodically revisit how things are going over the year.  Continue the conversation and help break the taboo by holding one-on-one check-ins where you discuss how the schedule and policies are working for each employee. You should also periodically check in at larger meetings too. This is a great way to make it clear that it's okay to discuss these things at your company and that together you're committed to building a culture where people can do great work and have a vibrant personal life too.

Published on: Dec 5, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.