The SHRM survey cited in the Post was reported by SHRM.org on July 16, 2012. The 2011 survey found that the vast majority of companies let employees determine how much to use e-mail and other communications after hours and weekends. Furthermore it is difficult to determine the extent of the “cut tether of e-mail” movement. SHRM surveyed over 2500 HR professionals, randomly selected members of SHRM. Only 12% answered the survey, that is 322. Do one in four companies have formal or informal policies? Given the small sample, it is difficult to tell. No item nonresponse analysis was reported in the SHRM results. It is possible companies with such policies were more likely to respond than companies who do not, thus inflating the results.
Of the 84 HR professionals who reported their companies have work/life balance policies, only 22 people indicated their supervisors discouraged nonworking time e-mails and communications. SHRM suggested that, “In some cases, these limits might be put in place to be compliant with Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements for nonexempt staff.”
The question of e-mails and phone calls during nonwork hours is important, subject to debate, and needing research. My guess is that many people are bombarded with e-mails in their nonwork time, find it annoying, disruptive to their private lives, and dislike. Their lives would be greatly improved if they did not have these afterhour communications. But wanting to be seen as team players and keep their jobs or hopes for promotions, they answer the e-mails and phone calls. On the other hand, there are those who do not compartmentalize their lives, who really do not have nonwork time, who have no problem with these communications. The Howard and Bray AT&T studies reported in Managerial Lives in Transition clearly indicated the people who reach the top of corporate America eat, live, and breathe their jobs. And there are some jobs where by necessity, communications during nonwork hours are critical, even a matter of life and death. Physicians, firemen, police for example.
So in your organization are the e-mails and communications after the workday reasonable or a burden? Does management need to review the amount of work communications expected during employees’ private time? Is it pervasive, affecting quality of life? There may be areas within organizations where more thoughtful and respectful climates can to be created.