Checking Email After Work Is Common–But Unproductive

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checking email outside work hours is unproductive

An HBR.org survey asked respondents about their email habits.

Are you in the habit of checking email outside of the office? If so, how does this habit affect your life?

HBR.org asked its readers to weigh in on questions like these after one of my articles for the site, “Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team,” struck a chord.

The responses to the survey give us some insights on how today’s professionals use email.

  • Almost 60 percent of respondents to the HBR survey (approximately 60 days after it went live) said they generally respond to truly urgent emails right away and let the others wait until they have time. That supports a point that I make in my training sessions: Most people’s strategy for handling email is “skim and skip.” But one of the many problems with this approach is that we never truly have time to go back and process those emails we put off, raising the chances that something important will slip through the cracks.
  • More than 78 percent of people said they catch up by checking email after work, and 66 percent of respondents said their work-life balance is affected when they’re checking email outside of work hours. This corresponds with what I hear from my clients;  before my training, they are struggling to keep their work from intruding on their personal time.
  • Among the respondents, those who identified themselves as “C-level/Founder/Owners” were the most likely both to be checking email after work hours and to say that their sleep and productivity suffer when they are checking email at night. Does this describe you?  Those habits have far-reaching implications. Besides harming their own performance, these leaders are modeling unhealthy behaviors for employees and contributing to a work culture that’s ultimately unproductive and unsustainable.

How do your email habits compare with the results of the HBR survey respondents? This week, pay attention to how often you are checking email outside the office and what happens with your sleep, your productivity and your sense of work-life balance when you do. There are lots of resources on this site for managing stress, work-life balance, and email more effectively, and you can also get access to others by filling out the HBR survey. For even more, you can preview my first book for free by filling out the box on the right side of this page, or take advantage of all the resources in the book by purchasing it here.

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Comments

  1. Phil Condra says:

    I’ve always admitted to being someone who doesn’t like to read (meaning books). However, the realization just hit me that I guess I do like to read…a lot of email. I rarely keep much in my Inbox and prefer to use the other features in Outlook to remind me of tasks. One of my pet peeves is the over use of Reply to All. Seems that would cut down alot of unnecessary email.

    • Maura Thomas says:

      Great point, Phil! I think you are on the right track keeping your inbox to a minimum. An email inbox is not a great place to store tasks, and reply to all is almost always a bad idea. Thanks for your comments!

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