Good Monday morning!
Let me ask you something, and be honest - Did you check your work email over the weekend? Tap out any quick messages or replies from your smartphone while you were out shopping or at the football game or 'spending time with family?'
I bet you did.
Everyone does it seems these days.
This is not a brand new story, but it popped up again over the weekend - Germany Examines Ban on Employees Checking Work Email at Home, a review of some potential legislation to effectively eliminate most 'off-hours' Emails in that country. The country's Labor Minister Andrea Nahles says that it is "indisputable that there is a connection between permanent availability and psychological diseases."
Love that line.
It sounds a little far-fetched, but even the idea that some combination of workaholism, unhealthy workplace culture and expectations, and enabled by technology that leads to this notion of 'permanent availability' could lead to psychological diseases is at least fascinating.
And some German companies like Volkswagen, at least partially driven by work contracts and labor rules are adopting the 'no Email after hours' policies. So whether it becomes a government forced mandate or an employer-driven initiative (and possibly something that is collectively bargained), it seems there is at least some traction developing in Germany for a ban or at least a significant restriction on after-hours work communications.
Let's jump back across the pond to the USA, where those two conditions, some kind of a ban on after-hours email via legislation, or individual company/labor contract agreements to effect the same, are very unlikely.
So then, why should we Americans care or even think about this?
Well for two reasons I think.
One, regardless of where you are from, if there is some validity to Labor Minister Nahles' claim that email addiction can lead to psychological diseases, then we 'always on' American worker types are even more in jeopardy of falling victim to burnout, stress, depression, and such.
And two, as HR and business leaders, it probably is time to think about the workplace effects of this new 'permanent availability' with respect to productivity, engagement, retention, and overall performance. Are we really getting the best or most optimal performance, (and working towards being a great/super/amazing/classy place to work), if we have as an organization effectively expanded everyone's working hours to, essentially, all of the time?
Some time back I postulated that you could discover everything about a company's culture by examining one weekend's worth of corporate email traffic.
How much email volume is there on the weekend? Who is driving that? How are the response rates and times, particularly when upper management is sending emails out to subordinates?
That kind of thing.
I think if you believe that doing great HR is really about helping organizations perform at their best, that you should be paying attention to what is going on with these 'banning after-hours email' issues. Because even if you know that these bans will never take effect in the US, the reasons that they are even being considered are pretty important, and universal.
Have a great week!