Is it wrong to send work emails on weekends?

I was chatting with the owner of one of our small business clients recently. This particular client is a big believer of work-life balance and always respected his staff’s personal space and time. He really believes in investing in his people and is a big believer of training and technology (hence the reason he put all his staff through the Email Hell to Email Heaven in 60 Minutes program).

As our discussion progressed, this client revealed that he regularly works from home on weekends (which is OK as he compensates himself with days off on weekdays). It’s one of the nice things about being the “boss”, you can chose your working hours. One of the tasks that he undertakes on weekends is the delivery of various reports to his sales staff. He commented that within minutes of sending out such reports, some of his staff would reply to his emails (and not an automatically generated one at that). This subsequently led to the discussion of whether what he was doing was actually good for his business.

Is there anything wrong with sending work related emails on weekends? It depends. It depends on the type of work culture you’re trying to promote. If you’re trying to cultivate a go-getter culture where instant response at all hours is considered a desirable behaviour, then sending emails on weekends is perfectly fine. I’ve seen this culture within some sales oriented organisations (particularly real estate) and I’ve worked in businesses in South East Asia where this is the norm, sadly (that’s my personal opinion). However, if you’re trying to promote a workplace that respects private/personal time and work-life balance, then I would advise managers to stop emailing their staff on weekends. Hold on til Monday morning (or delay the delivery of your email til that time).

My rationale goes something like this. As a manager, you may be thinking “I’m working on weekends, but I wouldn’t expect my staff to do the same”, but when you send work related emails to them on weekends, your intentions may be misinterpreted. If you didn’t explicitly tell your staff that you don’t expect them to read & respond to the email til Monday, they can easily take the email to mean “my manager is giving me the hurry up” or “my manager thinks I’m not productive enough on weekdays” or worse still “my manager is a slave driver trying to work me 24/7”…. you get the picture. You don’t want to risk sending the wrong message to your staff because you’re trying to “catch up” on some emails on the weekend.

One of the easiest ways to overcome this problem is to use the Delay Delivery feature of Microsoft Outlook. By setting the delivery date/time of an email (eg, to Monday 8am), you can still write your emails on a Saturday afternoon so that they’re no longer rolling around in your mind all weekend but you avoid the possibility of having your staff misinterpret your intention.

Here’s How (Outlook 2010 only):

  • Open up a new message window [New E-mail] to write your email.
  • Select the options tab
  • Click the Delay Delivery button

You will find the “do not deliver before” options about half way down the window. You’ll also find the “Expires after” option here which can be a useful tool for time sensitive content (eg, invitation to the pub for Friday afternoon drinks – expire the content on Saturday as the invite will no longer be relevant).

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Get Involved

Do you often “do emails” in the evenings or on weekends? Have you had colleagues react to you negatively after sending them emails on weekends? Do you have experiences to share? Feel free to leave your comments & feedback below.

About Chee

Hi. I hope you're enjoying reading and learning about my favourite email etiquette, email management and Microsoft Outlook tips & tricks. Feel free to drop me an email via the contact form should you have any questions or suggestions. Thank you once again for visiting.

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