As an entrepreneur, I have had the benefit (drawback?) of making my own schedule. What started out as a luxury soon spiraled into a nagging feeling that the world would come to an end if I disconnect. I felt (feel…) the need to check my phone, respond to emails and look at social media at any and all hours of the day and night.
Leave my phone at home? Sounds good in theory, but I have teenagers so I must be accessible. Get a dedicated personal phone? Too complicated, I can barely keep track of the one phone I have. So what to do?
Since my brand was acquired I actually have a boss so I know first-hand what it is like to get an email at 10 pm at night and feel the overwhelming need to respond immediately. Once I realized how people I work with may feel when I send emails during non-business hours, I knew it was time for a change. If you are the boss, you can mandate these changes. If you are not the boss, you can put these tips into practice and hopefully start a trend in your workplace.
- Refrain from making phone calls during non-business hours, even if just to leave a message. Send an email (following the guidelines below) or set a reminder to call in the morning. If you work with someone frequently, find out what their business hours are and make a note of it under their contact information. Don’t forget to consider time differences.
- Use the Delay Delivery option when sending emails during non-business hours.
- Set up exceptions using the Do Not Disturb feature in your cell phone. Then use the Do Not Disturb feature during non-business hours.
- When possible, restrict business communication to phone or email. Save texting for personal use.
- During business hours resist the urge to respond immediately to email. When correspondence was hand-written a person had time to think about what they were writing. In this day and age of instant communication it is easy to send off an immediate email response, then add another point a few minutes later, then change your mind and send an entirely different response. Always give yourself a half hour to respond to avoid excessive emailing and of course the obvious emotional responses, grammatical errors and other mistakes.
- While on vacation, communicate to coworkers, clients and others, either verbally or in your out-of-office message, who will cover for you in your absence and when to can expect a response from you in both emergency and non-emergency situations.
If you have trained your clients, employees and employers to expect an immediate response from you, simply implementing these steps without advance warning, is not a good idea. Email or speak to them personally to let them know your intentions. For the first few months turn on your out-of-office email response at end-of-day, to let people know when you will be available. Make a new recording on your phone, letting everyone know when they can expect a call back.
Save non-business hours for thoughtful work, you know those tasks that require your full attention. If you do need to respond to emails, refer to number 2 above, but realize this is probably not the most productive use of non-business hours.Things like getting organized, reviewing reports, creative brainstorming, research and even hand-written correspondence are excellent tasks to complete during non-business hours.