Emails. We all send and receive countless every single day. They're the most frequently used means of communication for any business. It's what we constantly check to keep tabs on projects, communicate with team members or vendors and get the general pulse of our organizations.
But when does email simply become too much? After you leave work, that's when. The invention of the personal computer was supposed to simplify our work and bring us shorter work weeks. With computers in our pockets now, all it's done is make us work and communicate more.
Any business owner expects their employees to work hard during their days and weeks. But why has it become "fair" to expect them to continue working while they are home or out on the town relaxing? I was guilty of this and I know many other business owners are, too.
Last year, my company enacted a "no emails after work" policy, and the benefits were amazing. My employees were actually able to unwind after work so they could come in the next day refreshed and ready to take on a set of new challenges.
Taking work home can increase burnout, frustration and lead to hastily-responded-to emails, thus increasing the potential for errors.
As with most things in business, it's all about the execution. Here are three ways to set up your own policy outlawing after hours emailing:
1. Use other forms of communication.
If your house was on fire, would you email the fire department? If something is truly urgent enough to warrant getting in touch after hours, pick up the phone. If the person you need to reach doesn't answer, send a short text message outlining the problem and asking for a call back as soon as possible.
This will cover your bases in the case of an emergency and keep your team out of their inboxes so they can relax.
2. Come to an understanding.
Turns out, this is more of a generational issue. Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers, who are more likely to be in management positions, are notorious for sending too many after-hours emails.
Meanwhile, the majority of their employees, Millennials, are the least likely to send them--but receive more than any other generation. This can force Millennials to feel they are falling behind if they don't respond to emails, even if a response isn't warranted that night.
Come to clear understanding with employees on how everyone prefers to be reached after hours. If you identify a person in your company who is more inclined to send emails after hours--look at options to give them other mechanisms to get their thoughts out.
3. Talk to yourself.
Refraining from after hours email can be difficult, especially if your brain just won't stop. So, if you're the one guilty of sending too many after hours emails (like I am), create new forms of communication to yourself that you can organize and send to the appropriate employee in the morning.
In my case, I've created brainstorm Google Docs, email chains to myself, notepads and countless other forms of communication. But, I don't send to my employees until the morning when they can fully concentrate on the ideas or action items.
You still have to check emails after hours if you're part of an after-hours project. Last year, we had a photo shoot for new products after work when the natural lighting was best. I sent one of my employees, who was leading and organizing the shoot, an email directly relevant to the project.
When I arrived at the shoot, I asked her if she received my email. Her response? "I didn't see if because I'm not supposed to check email after work."
If you're technically working after working hours, you still do need to check your email to get relevant communications about the project. Sorry, but there's no way around that.