I run a lot of wellbeing workshops and manager training. In most sessions, the subject of email use will surface at some point. Often, someone will suggest that organisations should prevent email from being sent outside of office hours. Sometimes they will have seen examples from other countries or businesses where emails are banned between certain times, or even prevented by IT systems.
I’m not a fan of this suggestion.
Just what are regular office hours anyway? If we assume that it’s 9-5 (or thereabouts) all we do is reinforce the outdated notion that these are the hours that people do / should work. If we banned emails outside of these hours then we limit the option for people to work flexibly or just simply when best works for them. It is just a whole new version of command and control management. There are already so many barriers to flexible working, this would be one more to overcome.
I was therefore pleased to see this research from the University of Sussex that will help me respond to this debate with evidence. The headline findings are that restricting email isn’t actually the nice simple wellbeing solution that some people think it is, and could actually do more harm than good. You can find more information here.
When it comes to wellbeing, we are all different. One size only fits one. What causes one person stress won’t even register with someone else. The same applies to the question of what enhances wellbeing – there is no single approach here either.
Blanket policies and more rules aren’t the answer. Neither is removing people’s control over how they work; we know that this only has the potential to cause even more stress.
Instead, if we want our employees to be well, we can start by treating them like adults, giving them autonomy and letting them work in the way that works for them.
Or is that just a bit too radical?