Over the last few weeks I have read a few articles in the news concerning employees in the UK accessing work-related emails outside office hours. In a world where we see technology and communication as a positive, helping us to stay in touch with global affairs and international interests, I cannot understand why having better access to our own affairs through use of technology is a questionable act. It should be a personal choice.
I think the the real issue here lies with individual ability to create a work/life balance. It also comes down to social etiquette. I remember a time when people thought it was unacceptable to call someone before 7am and after 7pm. Now it seems that with heavy workloads and time management struggles, people are working early in the mornings and late into the night to get jobs done. I’m not saying this is wrong, as I read and respond to emails, both personal and work related at all times of the day, or even very late at night. However I do not expect anyone to sit and respond outside of office hours to me, nor do I feel obliged to respond to emails of a professional nature at these times. It’s just not courteous. If something is so urgent a phone call can be made, and if it’s not urgent enough to call, well frankly it doesn’t require a response until office hours begin again.
I think the issue here is less about the freedom we have thanks to technology, but more about the way we use it and the boundaries or courtesies of the individual. Of course there are always going to be exceptions which can be planned for or expected, for example where correspondence is across time zones. However on the whole, I think it is a matter of choice whether you do or do not want work related communication impacting your personal or ‘free’ time and that as a whole people should be learning the courtesies of professional interaction.
It may be okay to update your Facebook status at midnight, however just because you’re online doesn’t mean your work colleagues will appreciate hearing from you.
However, despite all of this, the marketing world is one that moves particularly quickly. It is always about staying one step ahead of the competition and this may be the catalyst for people to feel the need to respond to work related communications outside their usual hours. From a new business prospective, I know agency staff may often work well beyond their contracted hours on pitches and proposals because their companies depend on this in order to develop. The big question really is whether their employers recognise and reward this extra input in order to redress the work/life balance.