This article by Naomi Schaefer Riley discusses email addiction amongst workers. I think most of us are aware of this phenomenon: The feeling that we must check our work email in the evenings, on weekends, and even on our holidays. We compulsively check our email several times a day, which can have a negative effect on our productivity. You can’t sit in any meeting without seeing at least half of the members checking their email. We are being told increasingly that most of us do not multitask well. I was a conference last week, where most of the audience during a plenary presentation had their necks down as they worked on their mobile devices; I doubt most of them were taking notes related to what they were hearing. It struck me as rude, in fact, that so few people were giving the speaker their full attention.
Riley mentions a French law passed recently that gives employees “the right to disconnect.” Companies with more than 50 employees must allow workers to go home in the evenings or on weekends without having to check in electronically. I’m not sure why companies with fewer employees were not included in this law, as this means that these employees would not enjoy the same privileges. While my email practices are not protected by law, sadly, I adopted my own policy over the past two years of not checking my work email after 6:00 pm, on weekends, and on holidays (I use an away message). Many people I know say that they check emails during their holidays because they want to avoid a full inbox when they return to work. I have disciplined myself not to do so. My away message makes it clear that I will not read my email when I am on holidays, so I find that many people do not send me a lot of emails while I am away. Further, from past experience, I know that once I read work emails during my holidays, I feel obliged to answer them, which means my relaxed state often goes out the window. I have learned that setting boundaries around my time is a sign of self-respect, and allows me to have a healthier perspective on work and life priorities. I would like to think that there is more to my life than my job, regardless of how much I love it.