Over the last 18 months, we’ve developed more productive ways of working.  Bosses have realised that people can be trusted to work from home well, which means we are likely to have more choices about where and when we work in future.  However, flexibility also means blurred boundaries, and when expectations aren’t clear it can be more stressful for employees and leaders.

We’ve been responding to a business crisis on top of a health crisis over the last year, and many teams have significantly increased their hours, pace and intensity of work.  The loss of the commute means many are working longer days.  Combine this with a wider trend of our personal and work lives bleeding into each other on our personal devices, and you have the perfect ingredients for employee burn-out.

Banning all bosses from sending out of hours emails is not the solution – it’s a blunt approach that assumes leaders and team members can’t talk to each other and decide what’s best for them.  The parent/child mindset is outdated – work is no longer command and control with a clear separation between bosses and employees.  Now as we face more complex challenges, disrupted markets, new technologies and an overload of information, better collaboration is the only way we will stay competitive. 

The problem isn’t bosses sending emails after hours, the problem is the team hasn’t set clear expectations with each other.  Every team, company and project is different, and we can all talk to each other and decide how we want to work well together, team by team. 

A great team build trusted relationships with each other, and agree rules of engagement to make the most of the talents of each individual in the team.

If you’re a boss, ask what your team want from you.  If they would prefer you not to email after hours, use “schedule send” that delivers all your emails in working hours, or draft them ready to send in the morning if you’re working late.  If you’re an employee, tell your team you don’t read emails out of working hours, or put an out of office on to say when you will next be online.  If you work flexibly, you can say in your auto signature that you don’t expect a response out of hours.  You can all agree as a team not to email or message each other over weekends.   Or you may agree to ban out of hours emails for your whole team, of course!  

The point is you should have an open conversation about your rules of engagement for your team – not only will you set our clear expectations for each other, you will build more trust which will help you to do better work together, and enjoy the work more.

Pam Hamilton is the author of Supercharged Teams: 30 Tools of Great Teamwork which contains specific tools for you to use to set out your email etiquette, agree rules of engagement, and build your trust and teamship.   Take her free team assessment to rate the performance of your team and find out which chapters and tools will best suit you.

This article was first published in PR Moment magazine June 2021