While there’s evidence that late-night emails—especially on Sunday—just end up stressing out the troops, there are still plenty of defenders of the practice.
You might think that a few Sunday-night emails might be getting your team ready for battle during the coming week—but you might just be killing their morale instead.
That’s a key point underlined in a Wall Street Journal piece that discusses how weekend emails are a growing sign of “job creep,” and a signifier of burnout considered so prominent that it even has its own slang nickname: #SundayScaries, or the feeling of dread that comes with the impending end of a weekend.
“The proliferation of smartphones and workplace communication apps has created unrealistic expectations of how easily—and often—workers should be able to switch from personal to professional tasks, researchers say,” wrote Kelsey Gee.
It could be a major factor behind burnout too. A recent study by the mental health treatment firm Yellowbrick found that 62 percent of respondents felt pressured to always be accessible via communication mediums such as email or Slack, and a quarter stated that they worked off the clock once a week.
And that access often leads to extra work. According to one Microsoft study cited by the Journal, every hour the boss spends working off-hours adds to an extra 20 minutes of work for a direct report.
Point and Counterpoint
People, of course, have strong opinions about this issue. Michael Dermer, a blogger who goes by the name The Lonely Entrepreneur, made the case on his blog earlier this year that a decision made at 10 p.m. on a weekend evening isn’t a decision worth making.
“Many avoidable mistakes are made when we don’t properly shut down each day at a respectable time,” he wrote on his blog. “As the leader, we must demonstrate our respect for our team, and their individual lives and efforts, especially for those early team members who are putting in long hours and making their own sacrifices.”
But then again, not everyone’s convinced sticking with traditional wisdom makes sense. A blog post on HubSpot by Scott Tousley, the firm’s user acquisition team lead, argued that the problem is not one of timing, but of setting expectations.
“The solution here is simple: clarify with coworkers that we do NOT expect an immediate response,” he said. “While we’re at it, address any other un-discussed questions.”
He also noted that the reason emails might show up during weekend hours is because those are times when people are under less stress and can better devote their time to tasks that require less mental effort. “When we have the most energy, we should be doing high-energy tasks,” he explained. “At our lowest energy, we should do low-energy tasks.”