Email in the Middle of the Night

Pablo Valerio, International Business & IT Consultant | 1/12/2012 | 66 comments

Pablo Valerio
Having worked for different American companies for several years, I am not surprised that the executives are supposed to be in contact with the office at all times. Europeans think differently, and regulations there about working hours are strict. In the US, “salaried” personnel are usually not compensated for overtime or unused vacation days. In Europe, companies are required to pay overtime (usually at 150% of the base salary). Workers, other than top managers and company owners, can’t waive their vacation time, nor can they get paid for not using it.

Now companies in Europe are facing lawsuits -- usually after an unexpected layoff -- by employees who were required to check email and do work-related tasks overnight or during weekends or vacations. Some corporations, such as Volkswagen, are taking steps such as blocking e-mail delivery after business hours. “Under the arrangement,” the BBC reported, “servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees’ shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work.”

In many countries, companies could be expected to compensate executives for the time they spend answering email or performing other work-related tasks after working hours or during vacation. Violators could face fines.

With devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets at their disposal, it is not unusual for executives to check email anywhere, anytime. Email also distracts workers during their personal time, since sometimes they are asked to respond to requests immediately. You can’t leave work behind anymore, and what fellow blogger Birgit Nazarian called the leash of electronic devices is extremely powerful.

I remember being asked 10 years ago why I did not respond to an “urgent” email sent to me at 10:00 p.m. from Texas (seven hours behind) about a shipping question involving a customer in Italy. I had my computer off, and I didn’t have a smartphone at the time. But the company managers somehow expected me to respond immediately, and they were annoyed that my “negligence” delayed a shipment by 24 hours.

According to the second annual Mobile Messaging Study conducted by Osterman Research and commissioned by Neverfail, 79 percent of respondents said they take a work-related device with them on vacation. “Mobile messaging has become crucial to businesses and employees alike, but constant access to email makes it difficult for some workers to unwind,” said Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research. “Mobile access to email is certainly a critical aspect of how we do business now, but it is important to remember that there is a time and place for everything.”

Staying connected 24/7 is not only an enormous effort for the executive, but also a burden for the enterprise. Efficiency is measured by performance and results, not the amount of time spent “at work.” Exhausted executives who can’t unwind during evenings and weekends will not be sharp, and that will affect how they do their work. Many people accomplish more working part time (just four or five hours per day) than others do putting in 10-12 hours per day. It is very difficult to stay focused at the end of a long day at work, and it surely doesn’t help to take more work home for the evening.

Do you feel pressured to answer email at all hours? Is your company aware of your needs? Tell us about it.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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nimanthad   Email in the Middle of the Night   3/10/2012 10:41:13 PM
Re: too much communication
Exactly so in such a scenario why do you want to change the things and make it much more complexed for you and me ?
keveend   Email in the Middle of the Night   3/2/2012 1:43:56 PM
Re: too much communication
Well in all honesty, we work for them. They keep our tummies well fed and pockets heavy with coins.
nimanthad   Email in the Middle of the Night   2/26/2012 8:20:55 AM
Re: too much communication
Yes very true. Thats the attitude we need to change but I dont see it coming right now or may be in the near future as well. Employers are ruling and will continue to do so.
keveend   Email in the Middle of the Night   2/18/2012 3:02:42 AM
Re: too much communication
That's the attitude that we need to change. What do you think?
geeky   Email in the Middle of the Night   2/13/2012 11:25:47 AM
Re: too much communication
FBPMT: They surely know the word but they pretend that they dont. All employers are big time pretenders :)
nimanthad   Email in the Middle of the Night   2/12/2012 11:48:29 AM
Re: too much communication
No they dont treat everyone the same way. There is favoration in most of the offices but you have to deal with it. Nothing carries good values as such these days. They say we treat everyone equally but it does not happen practically.
fbpmt   Email in the Middle of the Night   2/1/2012 8:56:12 AM
Re: too much communication
@geeky == lol. As a former employer, beleive me, if the employers don't know this list already, they will shortly. As a matter of survival!
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geeky   Email in the Middle of the Night   1/31/2012 12:39:15 PM
Re: too much communication
Good point. Exactly. I think these words should be printed in a dictonary format and should be presented towards all the employers.
fbpmt   Email in the Middle of the Night   1/30/2012 5:04:12 PM
Re: too much communication
@geeky - yes, and let us add compassion to that list of nonexistent business words!
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geeky   Email in the Middle of the Night   1/29/2012 10:32:22 PM
Re: too much communication
Yes you cannot show sympathy towards employees when you are running a competitive business. Sympathy is not a word in the business directory
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