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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.

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.

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