Does Your Company Need an After-Hours Email Policy?

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on August 13, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In our ever-connected world, we lawyers are not strangers to the concept of always being "on call." In fact, when I picture a lawyer, the first image that comes to mind is someone checking their email on their phone -- constantly. While that may be normal for lawyers, what about the rest of your company's employees?

Earlier this year, Gallup reported that nearly eight in 10 (or 79 percent) of workers who "stay connected to the workplace outside of their normal working hours" view it as a "somewhat or strongly positive development."

Before you draft a hasty company policy regarding after-hours email, there are a few things to consider.

1. A BYOD Policy.

First things first: What device are your employees using for after-hours work email messages? Does your company have a "bring your own device" policy? If it doesn't, it needs one -- fast. BYOD can bring up a host of issues including cybersecurity and e-discovery -- even text messages are no longer safe. If your company expects employees to be "on call," then your company must either provide devices or establish strict guidelines for the use of personal devices.

2. Setting Expectations.

One fast way to fail is by not meeting expectations. But what if you don't even know what the expectations are? That's when management fails. If your company expects workers to check in after hours, then it should tell them about these expectations, and not assume them. If your company doesn't expect it (or want it), then you may want to consider a flat prohibition -- especially in light of the risks associated with BYOD.

3. Employee Engagement.

Harvard Business Review dug a little deeper into Gallup's research and found that "workers will view their company's policy about mobile technology through the filter of their own engagement." That is, engaged workers exhibit and experience less stress, regardless of whether they are expected to check their email after hours. So, for HBR, the question becomes less about a blanket after-hours email policy, and more about how to increase employee engagement.

As lawyers, we'll always be expected to check our email after hours, but that's not the same experience for all of your company's employees. If engagement is the deciding factor in employee stress, join us next week when we look at how to increase engagement among your company's employees.

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