Should weekend emails wait until Monday?

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A woman catching up on emails in bed while a child sleeps next to her

Using weekends to catch up on emails and prepare for the week ahead is second nature to many business leaders – but should you leave employees in peace and wait until Monday morning before you hit send?

Yes Dr Tara Swart is CEO of The Unlimited Mind

Dr Tara Stewart who debates weekend emailsClearing your inbox makes you feel good – every email you send gives your brain a hit of dopamine, the “reward” chemical, because you feel you have achieved something.

But each email received by a colleague – especially over the weekend – could have the reverse effect, increasing their cortisol (stress hormone) levels because it is perceived as unfair and burdensome.

Some studies indicate that knowledge of unread emails in your inbox can even reduce your effective IQ as you become more stressed – so piling your work on to someone else’s desk may negatively affect the brain power of your wider team.

Furthermore, multitasking by trying to power through emails on lots of different pieces of work during the weekend can add to your stress levels. Our brains are not good at multitasking, so having to constantly overlap work and leisure can tire us out, rather than relax us.

Finally, looking at a screen last thing at night – whether you are the sender or the receiver – will be detrimental to your sleep. It prevents your pineal gland from secreting the “sleep” hormone melatonin after dark as the blue light mimics daylight.

This can impact both the time it takes you to drop off and the quality of your sleep once you do. That in turn can damage your working IQ and ability to make decisions or think creatively the next day.

@TaraSwart

No Jennifer Moss is co-founder of Plasticity Labs and author of Unlocking Happiness at Work

Jennifer Moss who debates weekend emailsSending emails over the weekend is fine, but it comes with caveats. Employees should find it mutually beneficial; it’s transparent when hiring; and boundaries are clear to avoid burnout.

As a leader of a mental health and happiness platform, I’m seeing that work-life balance is not what employees prefer. Instead, they want work-life integration: 88 per cent of millennial employees who make up 70 per cent of the high-growth industry workforce crave this in a role.

This means that leadership allows employees to work towards goals rather than enforcing specific work hours. If one employee is most productive at 5am and another at 8pm, why aren’t they working at those times?

Of course, work still occurs between nine to five, but also at peak productivity. Companies such as Netflix and Virgin offer unlimited holiday and start-ups GitHub and Buffer allow employees to work from anywhere.

For industries and teams where this is unrealistic, companies have instituted “core hours”. Here, employees are asked to be available during predefined daily hours but can work autonomously outside of those.

There are trade-offs. Staff have to remain flexible to their peers’ schedules. Mutual respect is key – no one should suffer burnout. Communicating availability and time off-grid, defines the boundaries. It’s all about trust.  

@JenLeighMoss

Should weekend emails wait until Monday?

Let us know your views below.

About author

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty is the writer/reporter for Director magazine. She previously worked on a local news website and at a fashion PR company before joining the Director team in 2016.

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