‘Never-off’ workers frustrated at being contacted outside of working hours

working late

Workers being dubbed the ‘never-off’ generation are growing frustrated at being contacted outside of their working hours.

9 out of 10 bosses (89%) now admit to getting in touch with their employees when they shouldn’t be working and 29% say they do it regularly.

One in five (20%) of those in senior positions expect staff to answer calls and emails outside working hours at times too.

Research by employment experts Citation found that British employees are tired of it too.

More than one in three (36%) hate work calls outside of working hours, 30% get annoyed by their ‘out of office’ status being ignored, 27% get frustrated by people sending work emails at the weekend and 22% get irked by being sent emails outside of their normal hours.

When they receive a call or an email, over half (55%) of Brits feel like they are expected to respond, two in four (42%) start thinking about work or what work they have to do and one in three (34%) can’t leave things unread or unanswered, so they have to deal with the situation.

Gill McAteer, director of employment law at Citation, has provided 5 essential tips for employers to help their workers have a better work-life balance.

5 tips for employers for when your employees clock extra hours

  1. Never take the effort for granted

Employees working outside of their normal working hours should never be taken for granted and this discretionary effort should always be recognised.

If an employee drops everything at the weekend to sort out an urgent issue that has arisen, make a point of showing them how much you value this and offer them time off in lieu.

  1. Be flexible where possible

If the employee needs to leave work early or start later for a specific personal reason, allow it if it is possible.

Employees will be more willing to be flexible if they can see that it works both ways. By understanding and working around their specific needs, you send a strong message that you care about them as a person which is an important driver of engagement and retention.

  1. Don’t be the reason your worker’s burnout

Employees who can’t switch off are at much higher risk of burnout which could lead to poor performance or lengthy sickness absences. The latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stats show that stress, depression and anxiety account for more than half of work-related sickness.

The Working Time Regulations set out mandatory breaks between periods of work. This is necessary to safeguard employees’ health and safety. Breaching these rules significantly could lead to issues with HSE or even personal injury claims if the breaches are severe and the employee’s health suffers as a result.

  1. If your employee can’t offer flexibility, don’t judge them

Not everyone can offer it due to family commitments or personal situations. If you treat employees differently because of this, you run the risk of potential discrimination claims.

  1. Don’t take advantage of your worker’s kindness

Just because an employee never says no, it does not mean they are happy to do it. Often, they will vote with their feet and find another job.

Increasingly websites like Glassdoor are used by candidates to check out potential employers and a negative review from a disgruntled, overworked former employee can do a great deal of damage to your employer’s brand. This is the last thing any employer would want in today’s challenging recruitment market.

Gill said: “The practice of contacting employees outside of their normal working hours grew exponentially during the pandemic when for many of us the concept of working hours became blurred because of the demands of lockdown.

“Now, we are emerging to a more one-sided flexibility with employees expected to work their normal hours rigidly plus routinely answer emails and calls beyond this.

“When employees are contacted outside of working hours, they often feel anxious and then obliged to respond fearing what may happen if they don’t. If the employee can’t switch off, then they are at a much higher risk of burnout.

“If it must be dealt with immediately, your employee may not mind helping out very infrequently but in most cases, the actions are not urgent. We understand that bosses want to get ahead on the next day or week, but by contacting workers, they think they must reply, and this frustrates the employee. This can, in some cases, create a sense of resentment towards their job.

“Office enables emails to be sent on a time delay. If it mustn’t be solved in the immediate minutes, it can wait. Time your emails to send for the following morning or if this is over a weekend, then for Monday morning. Alternatively, you can include ‘DO NOT READ UNTIL MONDAY’ on the subject of emails too if you don’t have access to the time delay.

“Avoid irritating your employees by contacting them when they aren’t working and respect their work-life balance. In return, you will gain a much more dedicated, reliable and content worker.”

For more advice, check out the Citation Core Foundations of Employee Engagement Guide.

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