For many people, the pandemic and particularly working from home, has extended working hours and eroded the differences between being at work and being at home.

Working from home has led to workers receiving emails at all times of day leading to the comment “not so much working from home, as living at work”. Such emails can create stress, hinder people recharging their batteries and may, over time, lower productivity.

This has led to calls from Prospect, a trade union, for a ban on out of work emails. Similar rules have been implemented in France and some other parts of the EU with mixed success. A major problem with legislation is that one person’s intrusive out of work email, is another person’s flexibility – perhaps allowing someone with young children to work in the evenings after the children’s tea and bedtime.

Much is down to communication and expectations. Does the sender necessarily expect an instant response? Sometimes we put pressure on ourselves when it is not necessary. When I have worked late to catch up, the last thing I want is a response straight back! Increasingly emails are saying that whilst the sender may work different hours, they don’t expect a response to their email outside normal working hours.

Employers can help by setting an example and by consulting with workers and documenting expectations. As consumers, we can do our part by being reasonable in our demands and requests and realising that on the other side of the email is a human being. Banning out of work emails through legislation is not the only option.

Chamber Chat with David Park released 6 July 2021