/ Technology

Emails are robbing us from our days off

Man using laptop on the beach

Time off work no longer means time off work, or so it would seem from survey results by Xobni (‘Inbox spelt backwards). Apparently two thirds of Brits check their emails outside of regular working hours. Why?

The survey also shows that almost 28% of Brits check their emails when off sick, and that 14% check their emails, whether sick or not, in bed before going to sleep.

It seems there are a number of reasons why this happens. One in five Brits check their emails outside work because they feel they’re expected to provide a quick response. While nearly half do so as they fear they may miss something important.

Then there’s 11% who think it’s a necessary act to progress their career, and finally 40% – and the category I think I fall into – do it to ease their workload.

Our emails get out of hand

I frequently check emails outside of work, and I do so to make my working hours more efficient and the volume of mail in my inbox more easily manageable. And I think this is the real issue – the sheer number of emails sent.

I can get my new emails down to zero, take a ten minute phone call, and then return to 20 new emails in my inbox. So imagine what returning to work after a fortnight’s holiday must be like. When I’m away I don’t check work emails daily, but I will occasionally log in just to hit the delete button 50 or so times, or at the most, reply with either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

And evenings are similar. When I get in, I log in once just to see if there was anything I missed during my hour-long walk home. But in these instances, rather than just a delete, ‘yes’ or ‘no’, I might even go so far as to furnish the ’emailer’ with a one line response if I think it’ll make my following morning that little bit easier.

Smartphones much to blame

I guess much of this shift is due to the arrival of email-integrated smartphones. I have colleagues who’re loathed to sync their work email accounts to their phones, but others see it as an invaluable tool for getting things done.

There’s the other type of out-of-work-hours emailer too – the one that sends an email only to give their boss and colleagues the impression they’ve been burning the midnight oil. They tend to stand out like sore thumbs.

I won’t change my current habits, as twenty minutes here and there can make my Monday-to-Friday nine-to-five much easier. What I’ll have to watch, however, is logging in to work rather than logging in to manage work – but then perhaps my judgement has already become somewhat misplaced.

Fat Sam, Glos says:
13 October 2010

Isn’t there one important reason why people check their emails outside working hours? Checking personal mail, perhaps?!

I, like most people, suffer from email overload. At home, I receive virtually no newsletters, the ones I receive (mainly the Which Technology and cars ones, I generally deal with quick scan.

At work, it’s a different story. I work on a lot of projects and there’s a lot of correspondence flying around. Half the problem is that the senders don’t make it clear what action they would like you to take regarding their email. This is something I’m always conscious about when compiling my own emails. I make it clear what action I want people to take with my email. If it’s for info I’ll just CC it (even with no recipients in the ‘To’ box’). And I keep it brief. If there are any questions I encourage people to try calling me first rather than playing email tennis.

In Outlook, using rules, categories, folders, saved searches and colour coding is useful too.

And Ben, why not check your emails on your phone on your walk home? It’ll help free up your evenings 🙂

Fat Sam, Glos says:
13 October 2010

Also, I like your point about the midnight oil burner. I’m the opposite. I like my colleagues to realise that I can manage my time and that i have a life outside of work that is just as important!

Right, it’s 1.58 – time to grab a coffee and head back to my Inbox….

I only get about 400 e-mails a day – it makes sense to log-on several times to thin them out.

I hate Microsoft applications. Far sooner use Mozilla programs – easier to use.