The consensus on whether banning out of hours emails would do more harm than good

Last week we were fascinated to learn of recent research from University of Sussex which suggested that banning staff from accessing their work emails outside office hours could do more harm than good to employee wellbeing. 

Wellbeing in the workplace continues to be a hot topic for employers, and rightly so. WeThrive’s cumulative survey data from 2018 showed that 52% of the time employees suffer from work-related anxiety, with average survey respondents feeling that they had the necessary headspace to reflect and think clearly 48% of the time. To put that another way, half of all employees’ time at work is compromised, with people unable to think clearly because of work-related worries. 

More information on our findings can be found in the Future of Employee Engagement Report 2019. With this in mind, it is completely understandable that businesses want and should be doing more to tackle burnout. However, what is debatable is the best way to go about doing this.

Of course lots of you took to Twitter to air your thoughts:

@DrVMisra pointed out:

And @jamesisfine and many others had similar thoughts:

In response to the research, Dr Emma Russell commented the following: 

“[Blanket bans] would be unlikely to be welcomed by employees who prioritise work performance goals and who would prefer to attend to work outside of hours if it helps them get their tasks completed. People need to deal with email in the way that suits their personality and their goal priorities in order to feel like they are adequately managing their workload.”

Lauren Harding, HR Officer, Bailey & French Consulting gave us her thoughts on the findings via LinkedIn:

‘I personally agree with the research – People deal with stress in different ways, and whilst some feel overloaded/overwhelmed by accessing emails outside of the workplace, for others the ability to do this may help them to feel more in control of their workloads. As the article eludes to, a one size approach does not work, and whilst for using work emails at home may blur the lines between personal and work lives, I think there has to be some responsibility taken from the employee themselves to understand what would most benefit them, and their wellbeing, which employers could definitely help people realize. I think it’s a nice idea to give people “the right to disconnect” after work, and I’m sure for some this would be most welcomed, however for some this may be too restricting.’

WeThrive view

The idea of banning out of hours emails and introducing similar legislation to France would be sure to be hotly contested by a number of British businesses. However with Britons working some of the longest hours in Europe with some of the lowest levels of productivity, the question of banning out of hours emails forms part of a much larger debate about work/life balance. What can we do to improve wellbeing in the workplace? Before it gets to the point of having the curb the use of out of hours emails. 

For now, every individual is different and companies must cater to employees as such; what works for one person may not work for another. 

You can also check out our case study: Harwoods save 360 days of senior management’ time to find out more about how one of their Heads of Business implemented a no emails after 4pm policy.

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