This week’s post is for the bosses, founders, and leaders out there. Have you ever wished for a way to improve your employees’ productivity without sacrificing their well-being? Even better, what if you could do so in a way that led employees to say “thank you!” in the short term AND improved your company culture in the long term?
We think there’s a pretty straightforward way to do all of that, and all it takes is a simple change from you (and the other leaders in your organization).
The Issue: After-Hours Work
If there’s a central issue plaguing office / white-collar / knowledge-economy workers today, it just might be after-hours work.
We’re not talking about the night owls or early birds who want to put in some time when most folks are asleep. If those hours work for your business, great—those people may be better off for it.
No, we’re talking about the biggest portion of your workforce, the ones who’d say they work 9-to-5 jobs (or some variation on that) and who wish they could leave work at work when the day ends.
As work has gone more and more mobile and remote, it’s now possible for people to work from anywhere and at any hour of the day. But is doing so actually good for your people (and therefore your business)?
Microsoft recently conducted internal polling and released some alarming statistics: more than 30% of its employees indicated their daily peak of working happened at 10 p.m. — and we’re talking about regular, office-hour jobs here!
This was a problem before the pandemic, but it didn’t help: people are working longer days now, around 46 minutes longer on average. And they’re spending more time working outside of their normal hours.
Some of this may be by choice or necessity due to childcare and family responsibilities — but some of it is because people assume you’re expecting them to do it.
Think about it: remember back to a time when you weren’t quite so high up the food chain. If your superior sent you a memo or an email or gave you a phone call after hours, how did you respond? If you’re like most people today, you assumed that you’d better do something about that message right away.
So when you send employees emails after hours, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they reply — even if you don’t expect them to, and even if it’s harming their overall productivity and well-being.
The Problem: Ideas Don’t Wait for Office Hours
On the surface, this might seem like an easy fix: if you’re in charge, then just stop sending after-hours emails. That should set the tone and send a message that you don’t expect others to do so, either.
But there’s a problem with this idea: as a leader, you’re likely always thinking of elements of your business, even while you’re relaxing in the evening. And sometimes you’ll have a brilliant idea or remember something that slipped through the cracks during the day.
Those revelations don’t wait for office hours, and you don’t want to lose them. So what should you do?
The Solution: Scheduled Send in Outlook
The solution to your part in the after-hours email problem is a little feature tucked away in Microsoft Outlook: the ability to schedule when emails get sent.
To use this feature, write your email as you usually would in the PC version of Outlook. But instead of clicking the “Send” button, click on the “Options” section in the message window, then “Delay Delivery.”
You’ll see a “Do not deliver before” section. Go there, and put in 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Next, close that window and hit “Send.”
That’s all there is to it: now your email will arrive promptly at 8am tomorrow, as if you wrote it first thing (even if you’re in a meeting or haven’t made it to work yet yourself!).
Outlook for Mac users have it easier: next to the “Send” button is a drop-down arrow with a “Send later” option. It works the same, but in fewer clicks.
That’s all for this week’s tip. For help with this or other productivity solutions, reach out today!