Nick Corcodilos, who writes at Ask the Headhunter, tackled a question from a reader who wanted to know if he was unreasonable for expecting to only work during business hours. Corcodilos comes down firmly on the side of the employee who wants to have some semblance of work-life balance by turning off his email in the evening. He writes:
In my opinion, people who walk around with "I work evenings, too" tattooed to their foreheads are dopes begging to be abused. Good for you for saying no. There's nothing impressive about projecting "I'm proud because I work for my boss all day long!"
If you want to leave that interviewer with the right impression about your dedication to your work, try this:
How to Say It
"I'll do all the work necessary to help my company be successful while I'm at work. I'm proud of that."
It's up to your boss to give you the right work to do, and it's up to your boss to define, organize, and manage your workload during work hours to ensure the company's success.
Corcodilos has good advice and good ideas, but what if you're the manager? What if you, yourself, are spending hours each night handling things, and having an employee who refuses to play along will increase your workload? Then what? Evaluate your employee's request along these lines:
Is There a True Business Need?
For about two years, my husband lived in Switzerland and had direct reports in India and California. In addition to the annoying jokes about how the sun never set on his empire, this meant that it was completely impractical for him to keep an 8:00 to 5:00 schedule.
If you have employees, clients, or vendors that cut across time zones, saying no to evening--or early morning--work is not going to work. If you have all your offices and clients in a single time zone, these late night emails make a lot less sense. What's the real reason an email sent at 9:00 pm needs to be answered by 10:00 pm and not by 9:00 am tomorrow?
Are You Making the Best Use of Your Time?
As a small business owner your business is your baby, so naturally, you will be willing to spend more time working than your employees will. You are also the one who will see the benefits if the business takes off. At most, your employees might see a bonus check. As a result of that, you might be a bit blind to how you are spending your time.
Stop and think: Am I doing things on the weekends and at nights that should be done during normal business hours? And, am I doing things during business hours that don't require my employees' input? If you're sending out emails or calling people at 9:00 pm, why didn't you do that earlier in the day?
Emergencies happen. Daily emergencies aren't emergencies but planned activities. If you plan to work into to the evening, don't treat it like an emergency.
Did My Employees Sign Up For This?
In the job interview, did you say, "your phone will be your new god? You must never put it down and we expect you to be available 24/7?" or did you say, "We believe in work-life balance"? I'm guessing you said the latter. While you may think you believe in work-life balance because employees can telecommute, but if they are expected to be on call all the time, you just mean people can work in many locations. If this is an expectation of our business, be prepared to pay top dollar and be honest when you hire.
Is the Work Getting Done?
Let's say you've always expected employees to respond immediately, but now you have one that will get back to you during business hours. What's happening here? Is the business falling apart? Is she getting terribly behind on her work? If so, then it's time to re-evaluate the position and determine if it's too much for one person or if your employee isn't using her time wisely. If everything is getting done, let it go.
But the Clients!
Some clients are a pain in the behind, but you can train them to not be so awful, or you can drop them if they are detrimental to the morale in your office. But, sometimes, you put pressure on yourself that is just made up.
Years ago, I had a boss that considered every request from a higher up as a life and death emergency. After several times where my boss would come to me at 4:30 and say, "The head of HR needs this tonight!" and I'd bust my buns to get it done, only to see that the email remained unopened for several days, I'd had enough. I suggested to my boss that she should push back. Unacceptable she said. So, being slightly rebellious, I took matters into my own hands. When my boss would come to me with an "emergency," I would pick up the phone and call the person or the person's administrative assistant and ask, "when do you need this?" Never was the answer "right now!" My boss was in a constant state fo stress--but she was bringing it on herself.
I'm not telling you to stop over-delivering, but I am telling you to realize there is a cost. And frankly, getting projects early from me wasn't helping my internal clients. They were busy and couldn't get to them until they had the time.
I'm not willing to take a hardline against night and weekend work. In a knowledge economy, we can be thinking (our real job) at any time. For many of us, it's convenient to write down our ideas after dinner and send out an email or two. What I will draw a hard line against is expecting all our coworkers and our direct reports to respond immediately.
So, if you have an employee push back, let her. Evaluate if your current system is the best for your company. If not, let her turn off her laptop and phone and have a life.