Does Your Staff Respond to Work Emails at Midnight?

August 29, 2011

Lately, I have had several conversations regarding employees working either excessive hours or responding to emails at midnight.  Now I’m not sure about you, but this doesn’t seem right.

One Manager I spoke with shared of his high performing employee regularly working till 8pm.

I was also speaking with another employee who is checking and responding to emails right up to the point that she goes to bed, which is often around midnight.  Why, oh why are they doing this?!

I do acknowledge that sometimes we may need to work some extra hours to meet a deadline, however when staff are regularly completing work late at night, it does make you wonder what is driving this behaviour?

There are a range of reasons why an individual may be working excessive hours, of course some influenced by the individual and others by external factors.

It is important for management to understand why employees are working excessive hours and to support their staff out of this destructive pattern which can result in serious health consequences, such as burn out.

Reasons that an individual may work long hours may include, not enough help to complete the work allocated, individuals who are not competent at their job and it may take them longer to perform tasks, employees who can’t say no to additional requests, individuals who don’t have the right training needed to complete their job, poor systems, dealing with a reactive culture, unrealistic expectations, trying to impress and the list goes on and on.

What can you do as a Manager to help your staff reduce their working hours?

Now, working extra hours may not just be an isolated incident in your team.  Firstly a Manager needs to determine if this is something specific to an individual or is your entire team and/or organisation regularly working extra hours.

If this is the case, you will need to think more broadly to address the bigger issues that are causing extra hours.

Let’s assume though that the individual has all of the resources, skills, knowledge and experience they need to complete their role and there are no external influences causing the need to work long hours.  Being a self-confessed workaholic, I can speak from experience it is not as easy as saying just stop it, pack up and go home at 5pm!  If only it was that easy!

Here are some suggestions:

1. Informal Catch-up

Go grab a coffee with your staff member and ask them how everything is going.

Let them know that you have noticed you’ve been doing a lot of extra hours and you want to help them to reduce this extra time at work and find out why this is occurring.

It is important to discuss the impacts of excessive working hours and if you are worried about them, then why not let them know?

Of course this will all depend on your Management style, but by taking the time, hopefully this will start a meaningful conversation that will lead to some steps in the right direction.

2. Work Life Balance Strategies

After enquiring into the reasons for the extra hours, find out what support is needed and develop some strategies together that will help the individual to reduce their working hours.

Set realistic goals and review their progress to ensure that improvements are being made.  For example, the employee who was responding to emails until midnight, after enquiring further I discovered that this would have caused her more stress and anxiety if she couldn’t.

The suggested strategy for her would be to slowly reduce this activity, for example for the next two weeks, she can only check and respond till up to 11.30pm with the plan that after 6 months, she will no longer be checking her emails outside of work hours.

I have also seen some Managers and employees go that one step further of setting work life balance KPIs as part of their development plan for the coming year.  This makes actions more accountable, particularly when it is linked to a performance based incentive.

The strategies implemented will depend on the individual, so make sure you develop them together and have them own and want to take on these actions.

3. Celebrate the Wins! 

It is important to reinforce and reward the right behaviour.  Hopefully you are setting them up to win and supporting them in all ways possible to achieve the agreed goals.  Be sure to celebrate when they have reached milestones, so that you are continually reinforcing the right behaviour.

Managers play a critical role in allocating and managing the workload of an individual.

Therefore it is essential that they do not ignore workers who are responding to emails overnight.

Failure to address this issue, may reinforce that extra hours are acceptable, make others in the team think that it’s expected which could result in a culture of more people working long hours and/or employees resigning as this is not what they signed up for.

Leave a Reply

ERROR: 8 - CURL error: Couldn't resolve host 'http'