Not sending emails outside business hours doesn’t improve work life balance posted on 29 April 2024

About once a year (after a company wide survey 😅), I hear discussions on how to improve work life balance. The common suggestion I hear is to stop sending emails/messages outside business hours. This proposal always strikes me as inadequate:

  • It doesn’t make sense if you consider time zones. If your team is across Asia, America and Europe, there’s no overlap during business hours only.
  • Even if people were refraining from sending emails outside their business hours, you would still receive some notifications – e.g. from automated systems, alerts etc.
  • Your personal work life balance is different than someone else – e.g. as a parent, I leave work early to pick up my children and come back a bit in the evening to catch up. This is similar to having coworkers in different timezones, your hours may not match your coworkers’.

The right solution is for everyone to build the discipline to ignore work notifications outside business hours. In my case, it is very hard to get a hang of me after I pick up my kids and before they are asleep – my phone is on silent and unless I get paged (or my wife calls me 😅), my phone doesn’t light up.

The main thing a company should do is to make it clear that you don’t have to answer every email (or chat message!) immediately – you should do this at your own time.

Last but not least, there are career paths that result in worst work life balance

  • Working in hot companies – staffing is often the limiting factor to the company growth so every one has more on their plate than they can chew
  • Being a senior engineer – you’ll have more work/responsibilities and the likelihood that someone needs you outside business hours is higher

This comes back to one of my previous posts where you don’t have to necessarily chase better title or compensation – work life balance is something you should consider especially if you struggle to set boundaries.

What worked well for you to improve your work life balance?

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