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Work email etiquette

(63 Posts)
JazzyBBG Thu 07-Mar-19 18:57:28

Interested for views... in my company totally normal for people to email late at night, on weekends etc. You don't have to reply but people email.

Talking about this with some friends who said in their companies this would be totally unacceptable and they were shocked it still goes on, their company culture would be against it. So interested to know what is normal for people. Me and my husband both work all hours and with rise in flexible working I would have thought this was normal.
We are all UK based.

ElloBrian Thu 07-Mar-19 18:59:20

Entirely depends on the nature of the company and the job. Your question is therefore too vague to be meaningful.

knitandpearl Thu 07-Mar-19 19:00:58

I would occasionally email internal colleagues at night but not expect anyone to read it until normal office hours.
If I needed to email externally I'd usually set a delivery time for early next morning as I think it looks a bit unprofessional to be emailing at all hours - different work fields world have different cultures though.

PinkBuffalo Thu 07-Mar-19 19:01:41

I work somewhere where there's 24hr shift work. You get emails at all sorts of odd times! That's why we use email mostly instead of phoning

SunnySomer Thu 07-Mar-19 19:02:51

Normal in my organisation- but the operational bits of it are in operation 24/7, so for some staff late evening is a quiet time in the working day. No expectation of an immediate response though.

HomeMadeMadness Thu 07-Mar-19 19:05:24

Totally normal everywhere I've worked. People sometimes stay late and will send emails when others have gone home. I can't see why it would be a problem unless you expected an immediate response.

Sparklesocks Thu 07-Mar-19 19:05:26

It depends on the type of job and individual office I think. My boss is very senior to me (makes much more money!) and tends to email at all hours - late nights, weekends etc. And that’s also partly because he’s a ‘write it down or I’ll forget’ type person, so sometimes if he has a brainwave he will shoot off an email about it to me. However he doesn’t expect me to reciprocate, he’s fine for me to look at them/reply in normal office hours.

AmIRightOrAMeringue Thu 07-Mar-19 19:07:39

I don't think it's best practice as it can lead to stress - it can make employees feel like they've always got to be 'on' and if your boss emails late at night, there can be a pressure felt to respond then, even if there is no expectation from that boss. It implies you need to work all hours to get ahead. It doesn't really promote a healthy work life balance. In my company it used to happen when blackberries first came out, I think people felt that because they could do it, they should. However they have deliberately cut back, unless it's urgent, people tend to catch up on emails offline and send them the next morning, to promote the culture of a healthier work life balance. Healthy employees who are less stressed are ultimately better for the company

Bayleyf Thu 07-Mar-19 19:07:39

Normal to email out of hours for me. No one expects a reply till morning, though.

I really like being able to work when suits me, not an arbitrary 9-5. For instance I sometimes leave early so I can swim when the pool is quieter, and catch up after dinner.

notacooldad Thu 07-Mar-19 19:08:14

I can work up to 12.00pm and also Saturday and Sundays. So I send emails as needed.i may ot be able to reply to them if needed because I could be off Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as its my' weekend!
As long as everyone ha the relevant information by when they are supposed to it's fine.

Fluffyears Thu 07-Mar-19 19:08:20

I never read e-mails outside the office. I used to have a manager who would work during the weekend and send me a massive e-mail on a Sunday then call me at 9.01 on a Monday to discuss.....let me read it and look up what you are yammering about.

PettyContractor Thu 07-Mar-19 19:08:39

You don't have to reply but people email.

Why does it matter when people email? You don't have to to read email until you choose to, or even receive an alert so you know it exists.

If the first you become aware of the existence of an email is at the start of the next period of work, then why does it matter when it was sent?

whycantIthinkofadecentusername Thu 07-Mar-19 19:08:54

Normal for us. Some aspects of the organisation work 24/7, some don't. I may or may not have to work 24/7 if there is an incident.

It totally depends on the situation. I have emailed late at night to my team via my phone as I've been thinking about something. I certainly do not expect a reply from them unless we are in an incident and they are working.

TulipsTulipsTulips Thu 07-Mar-19 19:10:10

Normal to email at all hours. I prefer not to reply after 9 pm but will do if it’s marked urgent.

wasabiaddiction Thu 07-Mar-19 19:10:40

Normal where I work.

I was late in on Tuesday as I was having my hair cut.

So very happy to receive and sometimes respond to mails in the evening.

If you want flexibility you have to give flexibility back.

itbemay1 Thu 07-Mar-19 19:12:22

I sent, receive and reply to emails in the evening and at the weekend. Totally normal, if I'm busy I don't reply and I never expect a reply eves or weekends. It is a choice to look at emails.

BasinHaircut Thu 07-Mar-19 19:15:54

There is a growing trend amount the more senior people where I work of emailinng at all hours/the weekend.

I personally don’t think it’s appropriate. It adds a pressure for tothers to be doing similar and is not good for morale. Agree it looks a bit scrappy and unprofessional to email externally out of hours too.

I point blank refuse to work evenings and weekends unless there is an actual crisis which needs attending to.

I often say that nothing that arrives by email after 5pm is urgent enough to need attention before 9am and I don’t get paid enough to even open it.

PettyContractor Thu 07-Mar-19 19:16:31

The people that think email sending needs to be controlled have the wrong etiquette. They don't understand that emails are not wordy texts/instant messages, they are fast memos/letters. Texts/instant messages have always alerted the recipient on arrival, emails were a replace for post that was dealt with at the recipients convenience.

Shuffletrufflepig Thu 07-Mar-19 19:17:52

Normal where I work too. My role has changed slightly now but I used to receive phone calls at 10pm at night from my boss and once a week I used to stay in the office til sometimes gone midnight after having started at 8am. Bonus time it was always reflected. Totally normal to receive emails at odd hours or weekend.

Thisisnotadrill Thu 07-Mar-19 19:19:16

On a Leadership course we were told that it’s not good to email out of hours as employees will feel pressure to work out of hours too (normal office hours job).

It was suggested if you must write them at all you leave them in your outbox until “work hours”.

feelingsinister Thu 07-Mar-19 19:20:00

In my experience, the people who do this want to be seen to be putting the hours in. It's not the done thing in my current profession and would be a cause for concern.

Arowana Thu 07-Mar-19 19:20:04

Where I work we have a policy about flexible working. It specifically states that it is acceptable to email people outside normal office hours but anyone receiving an email should not feel they have to respond.

Personally I rarely check my work email after I've left the office.

SherlockSays Thu 07-Mar-19 19:20:20

Public sector IT organisation and whilst it may happen, it is frowned upon and they make a real effort to ensure that people have a good work/life balance - if you email at night and even more so on a weekend, fully expect to not get a reply until the next working day and for that reply to be 'why the hell were you thinking and emailing about work?!'

TedAndLola Thu 07-Mar-19 19:20:36

Normal for senior staff. Even we're not expected to check emails or reply out of hours, though I do when my projects are in important stages.

CMOTDibbler Thu 07-Mar-19 19:21:11

I work in an international team, so its totally normal for me. Everyone replies in their timezone, but I do some evening emails as head office don't even start till 5pm my time, and one of my engineering teams are only just getting into their stride then. Much easier to deal with at least some stuff in real time

BasinHaircut Thu 07-Mar-19 19:22:04

Petty you are right that it was originally a replacement for postal mail but that’s certainly not how it’s used now. Not in any work environment I’ve ever worked in.

greendale17 Thu 07-Mar-19 19:23:12

Not normal in my organisation

JazzyBBG Thu 07-Mar-19 19:23:40

So no one else works where it would be deemed unacceptable then... that's what I was surprised by but I totally take their point.

I work in a corporate environment.

What annoys me is people who don't do things in office hours despite repeatedly asking then send it late to make themselves look busy - one of my team has just done this after having 2 quiet days!

SarahSnowdrop Thu 07-Mar-19 19:23:49

Totally normal in my world.

I rarely look at the time it was sent. Ordinarily, I don't email outside office hours but if I suddenly think of something I will dash off an email so I don't forget.

Agree that the sender rarely expects an immediate response. I know of many people who do this because they sit in back to back meetings or stupid noisy open plan offices. Processing email is far easier when you can concentrate and think for a decent chunk. Rightly or wrongly. some people can only do that out of hours.

IncrediblySadToo Thu 07-Mar-19 19:25:08

I email when it suits me, I expect people to reply when it suits them.

People need to work on their self restraint if they can’t stop checking their email account when they don’t want to 🤷🏻‍♀️

JazzyBBG Thu 07-Mar-19 19:26:22

@BasinHaircut exactly - attachments with reports of thousands of words etc.

SarahSnowdrop Thu 07-Mar-19 19:27:22

I do wonder where these mythical companies where everyone downs tools for lunch for an hour and leaves at 5pm.... hmm

Trills Thu 07-Mar-19 19:35:50

It's asynchronous communication. You send it when it's convenient for you, I read it when it's convenient for me.

The question is whether that's being respected or whether people are expecting replies, and whether managers are trying to establish a good culture around this.

Banning people from sending emails at certain times is a very blunt way to try to enforce culture.

I've heard of senior people who prefer to work later but want to be clear that they don't expect you to be on call at all times having email signatures with things like I send emails at odd hours but I don't expect you to reply until after you start your usual working day. (but phrased a bit more professionally.

RustyBear Thu 07-Mar-19 19:37:33

DH usually sends important emails last thing on a Sunday night, because he says then they'll be at the top of the inbox on Monday morning.

AlexaShutUp Thu 07-Mar-19 19:42:21

I try not to email much outside of office hours because I think it can create pressure on people to be always checking their email. However, I do sometimes send messages late at night or early in the morning if they're urgent - there are times when this is necessary.

It isn't unusual to send emails out of hours in my organisation. I don't see a major problem with it, as long as an immediate response isn't expected, because it suits some people to work more flexibly. That said, a small minority of people do seem to be trying to make a point by deliberately sending unimportant e-mail at silly times to demonstrate how busy they are. That doesn't generally go down too well in my experience!

CloserIAm2Fine Thu 07-Mar-19 19:44:31

My employer doesn’t expect it from staff, probably from senior management level but tbh their salaries are high enough to justify the extra demands. We used to all have access to our emails from home but several years ago it was removed from anyone without a business reason to have it (management and people who can work from home). I think probably more from a data protection concern than pressure to check your emails from home though.

I and several of my colleagues have contacted each other to check something if we’re not in and have forgotten to hand it over and there would be repercussions if it wasn’t picked up. But I wouldn’t contact a colleague who wasn’t in work to ask them about something work unless they were officially working from home.

PettyContractor Thu 07-Mar-19 19:49:40

you are right that it was originally a replacement for postal mail but that’s certainly not how it’s used now.

It's the same as mail in the relevant respect: it's an asynchronous form of communication. The time for dealing with is chosen by the recipient, and it's therefore irrelevant when its sent.

CherryPavlova Thu 07-Mar-19 19:51:33

My husband often sends emails when he wakes in the night for the lavatory and thinks of something.
I try to be more disciplined as I do think it creates a pressure for junior staff. I only look at emails after 9pm I have staff working in the field out of hours.

topcat2014 Thu 07-Mar-19 19:57:18

@sarahsnowdrop - not 'mythical' in my world, as a finance director in a small manufacturing company. Work is work and home is home.

I always say that "if you died, there would be someone else at your desk before your funeral takes place"

topcat2014 Thu 07-Mar-19 19:58:23

@CloserIam2fine - my decent salary is because of the work I am required to do during working hours - they haven't bought my life off me smile

cricketballs3 Thu 07-Mar-19 19:58:36

I send and receive emails at night/weekends but no one is expected to respond at these times it's just the easiest time for my profession (teaching).

lampygirl Thu 07-Mar-19 20:01:38

My office based job element is based on office hours, but the site work element can be all hours. I'll always send an internal e-mail as I think of it, e.g. been on this site and this is broken/missing/needs looking at in the morning as whilst it doesnt need dealing with til the morning when someone comes in in the office, it probably does want to be looked at before I get in if I've finished at 6am. If i'm just doing a bit of catchup at home in peace of an evening because it suits me and they are quotes or other external e-mails i'll usually leave them in my outbox and send at 9am because I don't want to encourage external people to expect an out of hours response on a regular basis for day to day things. There are a few people who can call me any hour but not many. There's no hard and fast rule but I can't say I think it makes people feel pressured, they can choose the same way i do what to send/not send/reply to/ignore til morning.

ideasofmarch Thu 07-Mar-19 20:05:08

I work in an organisation that has customers all over the world, and I get emails at all times of the day and night, and at weekends too.

However, I only ever look at work emails when I am actually at work during normal working hours and never at any other time. I wouldn't dream of accessing them any other time. Not a chance.

Palegreenstars Thu 07-Mar-19 20:06:52

@Trills I have wording like this on my email. I work full time in a senior role but that means I work the hours needed to get the job done not 9-5. It’s great as I can be flexible around my toddler and other priorities outside of work. I can’t imagine being told to only email between 9 and 5 it would be so inefficient.

herethereandeverywhere Thu 07-Mar-19 20:11:36

I work in an international organisation in a middle-senior role, the senior management could be anywhere in the world and emailing a team across all key time zones.

I find it quaint and faintly antiquated that an entire organisation could work 9-5 in one timezone then all switch off. It obviously works for some places but not all.

I think the key point is the obligation to respond. Unless it's in your job description to work 'over and above your prescribed hours when necessary' then there should be no need to so. As I work in legal and certain crises need advising upon and managing without delay, I can't just walk away at 5pm my time. However, unlike my previous role in private practice, where I had to be 'on' and giving 100% about 80 hours a week; here it's give and take. So I might do a conference call at 9pm my time (to ensure everyone from Paris to New York to Sydney can join) but if I want to work from home and go to the supermarket or hairdressers in the middle of the day I will.
I check my email on my days off in case anything urgent comes in and to minimise catch up on my return. Im very disciplined at only responding to the stuff with the required urgency unless it's during my working hours. It works perfectly with a family as 5-8pm is 'sort the kids out' time but after 8pm I can carry on working if needed (usually calls with other timezones, I try to minimise written work at that time unless absolutely urgent).

OP, if you don't have to respond then don't. Don't let the working habits of others bother you.

Jokie Thu 07-Mar-19 20:11:43

Yep, entirely normal but there's also not the expectation that you'd read and reply outside of office hours.

When it's critical/out of hours work then it may be required but other than that, it's fine.

We're in a flex organisation so we have people starting from 6am and some who finish at 8-9pm so the potential working day could be quite long anyway

opinionatedfreak Thu 07-Mar-19 20:14:25

This is a growing issue. I've had workplace training about constant connectedness contributing to burnout.

I'm a "funny times" email-er because I have some flexibility in my working hours and sometimes 7-11pm on Sunday is the best time to beast my admin. This enhances my work-life balance.

I don't expect people to read those emails out of hours though.

I would send "in hours" if i had better delayed sending software but outlook web doesn't support that.

I don't check work email outside my working hours and definitely not when I'm on holiday.

The dept mgt team all visibly sign off on our group what's app for holidays too. Although our boss did have to reiterate that leaving the group meant she didn't want any work related what's app msg's while she was off as one of my colleagues hassled her ++ about something over Xmas via personal what's app. 😮

I get a bit frustrated by colleagues who complain about the time I send emails because I don't understand why if it bothers them so much they are checking their email!!

Only a few v. senior people have the ability to get email directly to their phone via a mail client the rest of us have to manually log in via outlook web so checking work email is an active process.

IAmNotAWitch Thu 07-Mar-19 20:30:30

Like a PP upthread I work in an International company so don't really have "office hours" as such. The trade off is I don't have "office hours" grin No one care when I do my work as long as it is done and I show up if I am needed.

I much prefer this, it works very well with my partner and kids. DH and I both work a lot but we do it around the kids and each other so as far as they are concerned they have their parents available all the time.

If attending a meeting ar 2am my time means I can go to a school event etc then it works for me.

CrimpMyArse Thu 07-Mar-19 20:40:26

In the self-employed digital world there’s stuff flying round at all hours. Asynchronous comms are a huge boon to productivity and global working.

I’ve just had a quick chat now on instant messaging with three colleagues for something we’re doing tomorrow afternoon. Our kids are all in bed so we get a minute to think clearly and plan together.

Without the flex of always on comms I wouldn’t be able to work in this field at all. I’m disabled and need to rest and work in short stints and more spread out than normal office hours.

Restricting email sends to office hours would slow everything down to an unsustainable pace. Small business owners get stuff done in micro moments in between all the other stuff they need to do.

CrimpMyArse Thu 07-Mar-19 20:43:09

And yy to being available for the kids when they need it, rather that when it suits an employer. What a great way to grow up.

The critical bit here is expectation. I did have one client who the more responsive I was the more unreasonably demanding of attention she was. So for that client I only ever communicated at times when I was prepared to be available to her.

ForalltheSaints Thu 07-Mar-19 20:44:04

It happens from some people at my workplace, given the option for sometimes working from home and work smartphones. What concerns me is that some people are doing this when they should be asleep or just not thinking about work, and the impact on their mental health this could bring.

VelvetPineapple Thu 07-Mar-19 20:50:06

I don’t see why it matters when people email, as long as you aren’t expected to reply outside of office hours. DH works for an international company and regularly gets emails from other time zones.

Cherrysoup Thu 07-Mar-19 20:50:34

We have a curfew system for weekends/holidays. No emails til 5pm on Sunday. I guess so people can relax and not see work emails pop up. Personally, I have to log into work emails but some have it on their phones. I think they’re mad, we’re not saving lives or anything.

WishIwas19again Thu 07-Mar-19 20:55:33

There were open debates about this in my previous workplace (public sector). Even if you are not expected to reply, it is stressful to start your working day opening up lots of emails sent overnight so you spend time playing catch up straight away. Also can result in people feeling they have to stay ahead of the game and respond out of hours, or follow suit for appearances sake then before you know it the whole culture has changed. On the other hand flexible working is a good thing for wellbeing and retention. It was agreed that senior managers (who at that time were the only ones permitted to work from home and have the IT/BlackBerry to do so) would put delayed send on their emails to stagger their receipt within the first hour or so of the working day (unless it was urgent). Suited everyone.

Pinkprincess1978 Thu 07-Mar-19 21:10:38

I have no problem with it and also email at all hours. I don't expect a reply. If people don't want to work they don't have to open and look at an email.

LaurieMarlow Thu 07-Mar-19 21:17:24

Perfectly normal to email whenever it suits. No expectation to reply outside of normal hours (though I’ve worked in international environments where it was definitely worth it to keep an eye on email when projects were at key stages).

In one job, the boss decided to put ‘boundaries’ on emailing times because that was a trendy thing to do. So he decided we couldn’t email before 7am or after 8pm. hmm.

Such great work life balance there, thanks a fucking bunch.

SellFridges Thu 07-Mar-19 21:21:09

Normal in my company. I’ve just looked and I’ve had an email from my bosses bosses boss. She wouldn’t expect me to reply though. Some days I would reply, some I wouldn’t.

In fact, some members of our team have started putting a note on their signature saying something like “we work flexibly so you may receive this email outside of your working hours. There’s no pressure to respond until you are working”.

ByStarlight Thu 07-Mar-19 21:22:41

Even if you are not expected to reply, it is stressful to start your working day opening up lots of emails sent overnight so you spend time playing catch up straight away.

But that only depends on the culture and expectations of your organization. Same as some PPs, I work for an international company and am involved in global projects with key stakeholders in Asia and the US. Along with most of my European colleagues, every day involves opening an inbox of at least 20 emails that were sent from colleagues in other regions during their working hours while we were asleep. It’s not a big deal, just the inevitable result of working with people in different time zones. People also don’t expect instant replies either, as they understand that our working day will begin when theirs has ended.

LaurieMarlow Thu 07-Mar-19 21:33:22

Even if you are not expected to reply, it is stressful to start your working day opening up lots of emails sent overnight so you spend time playing catch up straight away.

In the nicest possible way, this is a very public sector way of looking at things.

SarahSnowdrop Thu 07-Mar-19 21:41:01

I think when you work in a global company and people are working across different timezones, emails are flying around 24 hours a day. I thought this was the norm to be honest. My email traffic is insane but

I do glance through my email before bed and first thing in the morning for peace of mind more than anything. I don't like surprises! However, I rarely reply unless I feel it is absolutely necessary as I don't want to set an expectation that I am available 24/7. 99.9% of emails can wait. Nothing about my job is life or death.

If you work in an old fashioned company, get ten emails a day then the boss emailing you at 11pm at night might stress you out.

ASauvignonADay Thu 07-Mar-19 21:44:38

Work in education and get emails at all hours. Including middle of the night from SLT occasionally! I guess it's personal decision to have work emails on your phone and if you do, I think it'd be unreasonable to moan about it.

ASauvignonADay Thu 07-Mar-19 21:45:16

(No one expects a reply out of work hours though, In fact my boss would comment if I was to reply to too many out of work or late at night)

IncrediblySadToo Thu 07-Mar-19 21:57:43

What concerns me is that some people are doing this when they should be asleep or just not thinking about work, and the impact on their mental health this could bring

Why are you concerning yourself with how other adults choose to work? You’re not their Mammy.

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