CXO

CIO Jury: Less than 20% of tech leaders tell employees not to check email after work

Work/life balance remains a challenge for many tech employees, as companies often expect workers to be available after work hours.

Many professionals struggle to achieve an adequate work/life balance, in a world where our phones and computers can keep us connected to our workplaces 24/7. In response, last year, France enacted a law dubbed the "right to disconnect," requiring companies of more than 50 employees to set up hours when workers are not supposed to respond to emails, normally during evenings and weekends.

While no such law exists in the US, some companies have taken similar steps, encouraging employees to disconnect from work emails and calls while out of the office. However, these companies appear to be in the minority, according to a TechRepublic CIO Jury poll. We asked 12 members of the jury, "Do you tell your employees not to check emails after work hours?" The results? Two said yes, while 10 said no.

"While I don't expect responses from anything unimportant, I wouldn't tell people not to check email after work hours," said Michael Spears, CIO and chief data officer of the National Council on Compensation Insurance. "Items of real importance would come as a text message or phone call, such as support calls."

SEE: Electronic communication policy (Tech Pro Research)

The same works in return while at work, Spears said: Employees aren't directed to avoid taking care of personal calls and emails, for example. "Both should be kept in check," Spears said. "I like to think of it as work-life integration. Personally, I would be more uncomfortable being told to disconnect as a rule."

David Wilson, director of IT services at VectorCSP, agreed. "In a constantly shifting contracting environment, the stress of being forced not to check emails would be worse than the annoyance of receiving them," Wilson said. "Work/life balance is encouraged and nurtured, but forcing it is not an answer."

While some don't have a strong requirement either way, staying in touch after work is part of company culture. "We don't expect them to check, but I wouldn't say we actively discourage it either," said Simon Johns, IT director of Sheppard Robson Architects LLP.

At Payette, employees can check emails after work hours, but it is somewhat limited, according to IT director Dan Gallivan. Junior employees typically aren't allowed to access email remotely or via mobile devices, he said.

SEE: Internet and Email usage policy (Tech Pro Research)

David Baker, CTO of Fringe Benefit Group, said the organization prefers that employees check email at least once or twice in the evening.

On the other end of the spectrum, Scott C. Smith, visual effects supervisor at After August, said he "absolutely" tells employees not to check emails after work hours. "I have found that there is no real rest without disconnection," Smith said. "One can get eight hours of sleep every night and still get no rest if he or she is not disconnecting during awake hours."

Kurt Schmidt, vice president of IT at Capital Credit Union, agreed. "If I can tell a specific employee is spending too much time working-while-not-at-work, I've been inclined to tell them to unplug to avoid burnout," he said.

This month's CIO Jury included:

  • Shane Milam, executive director of technology infrastructure services, Mercer University
  • Simon Johns, IT director, Sheppard Robson Architects LLP
  • Inder Davalur, group CIO, KIMS Hospitals Private Limited
  • David Wilson, director of IT services, VectorCSP
  • Cory Wilburn, CIO, Texas General Land Office
  • Dan Gallivan, director of information technology, Payette
  • Dustin Bolander, CIO, Technology Pointe
  • Jeff Kopp, technology coordinator, Christ the King Catholic School
  • Kurt Schmidt, vice president of IT, Capital Credit Union
  • Scott C. Smith, visual effects supervisor, After August
  • David Baker, CTO, Fringe Benefit Group
  • Michael Spears, CIO and chief data officer, National Council on Compensation Insurance

Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the top issues for IT decision makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director, or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, click the Contact link below or email alison dot rayome at cbsinteractive dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.

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Image: iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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