It’s 9:45 p.m. and you’re working at home, because “if I don’t get a few things checked off my list tonight, I’ll have a terrible day tomorrow.” But whatever you do, don’t click “Send.”
There are three reasons you should not send e-mail after about 7:00 p.m. in the evening:
1) It sets an unhealthy expectation for your team
Even though it’s not your intention, your staff feels pressured and guilty when you e-mail them at night. They wonder why you’re working, and whether you expect them to be doing the same. They wrestle with whether to e-mail you back that night or wait until tomorrow. It robs time and attention from their personal lives and puts their brains back at work. It also could be that you are using e-mail as a way to give a quick note or reminder to someone so that you don’t have to remember it until tomorrow, but there are better systems (writing a note, or e-mailing yourself if necessary) that won’t intrude on your team’s personal lives.
2) It violates work/life balance
Your team’s work/life balance isn’t the only one being sacrificed when you send nighttime e-mails — yours is, too. Why are you sending e-mails at night? If it is because you are truly so overloaded that you have to work late, then something else needs to change (see my post: Outsourcing the Low-Hanging Fruit). But if it is because you’re not considering the negative effects of working in the evenings, or if you have workaholic issues, then you need to address these. There are other things you can and should be doing with your out-of-work time. You also set the expectation that you are on e-mail 24/7, and people will start expecting nighttime and weekend responses from you.
3) It tells people you aren’t in control of your time
People notice the timestamp of your e-mails. They try to infer meaning by the time you click send. You might think you are telegraphing that you’re a hard-working, driven, dedicated nonprofit leader. But most people see something different: a person so bad at time management that they are having to burn the candle at both ends.
What To Do About It
Aside from the obvious — stop working in the evenings! — there are two possible solutions to avoid these pitfalls:
1) Explore Outlook’s delayed-send option. This will hold your message and send it for you at a time you determine. Click here for instructions from Microsoft.
2) More simply, you could simply draft the e-mail and save it to Drafts, and then make it part of your morning routine to open your Drafts and send all the messages.
Question: How have you felt in the past when your superiors sent you e-mail at night? Please leave a comment below.