Do you send emails last thing at night, or early in the morning? I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had no other option – i.e. having woken in a cold sweat at the end of the financial year and having to email your accountant in order to restore some semblance of peace of mind to get back to sleep – but has this become habit for you?

As a remote, home-based and lone worker, I have the flexibility to work at hours that are convenient to me.  If I have an appointment in the middle of the day, or work that needs to be completed urgently, I can easily work in the evenings or at weekends in order to complete the customer work that I have set aside for that day.  However, if I am working late at night, or over the weekend, I try to delay sending any relevant emails generated during that working window until more traditional working hours – that is, 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.  Although many customers may not immediately notice the send time of an email, I think that that information is sometimes communicated to a customer’s subconscious, giving the signal that I have non-traditional working hours (even if that really is the case) and encouraging ‘out of hours’ communication to become the norm.  Even if you are a night owl and at your most productive during the witching hour, I have always wondered if your late night working habits are something that you should actively promote? For me, even though it isn’t always the case, I am always concerned that mentioning that you are working at midnight gives the impression that you are a.) totally overloaded with work, b.) lacking in organisational skills, or even c) half-heartedly creating work when you should be in bed… not necessarily the most positive message to be sharing with clients!

As I mentioned, the odd 9pm email isn’t likely to cause that much of a problem, but if you are frequently sending emails out late in the evening, clients may start to think that because you are ‘online’ at that time, that you are also available to answer questions and carry out additional work at that time.  Again, this isn’t a problem for everyone, as you may actively be online every night at 9pm – the problem comes when you are only occasionally online at this time, but customers begin to expect email correspondence in the evenings and get frustrated if you do not respond.

Another problem brought about by a late night emailing habit is that your client or colleague may feel compelled to respond ‘out of hours’.  Not everyone has a strict email checking (and responding) window, and some customers may find it difficult to ignore your message if they hear the familiar ‘ping’ of an email notification during their favourite prime-time drama… do you really want to be the person responsible for interrupting a key point in Game of Thrones or a gritty ITV drama?

For me, delayed email sending has helped to ensure that clients realise I will only get back to them during traditional working hours (unless there is a major problem – this hasn’t happened to date).  Indeed, to make this clear I have even incorporated my email answering ‘windows’ into my client on-boarding document, so that right from the very first contact, they know when they can expect a response from me.  It’s a small change that has helped to make a big difference to my ability to relax in the evenings, at weekends and during holidays, and is actively contributing to a better work-life balance for me.  It might also be a simple change that you can adopt in your day to day working life to improve communication with your clients and colleagues, so before you press ‘send’ this evening on work related email correspondence, why not stop, pause, and schedule your email for sending in the morning instead? Let me know how you get on!

 

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