We had to pull the plug for useless emails after hours


Imagine buying an oversized, sugar-coated jar of peanut butter and finding a message on the label titled, “Ten essential tips for losing weight.”

If you think the guy might be right, “Leave the ice to peanut butter,” then don’t think like Tim Cook, Apple’s boss.

Last week, Apple announced their iPhones would soon have a “powerful tool” called Focus to better manage the buffalo of bleeps and pings that can make concentrating and relaxing hopelessly hard. Users will be able to log Twitter if they are busy at work or mute work emails over the weekend.

Or they could do something even more effective: immediately turn off the distraction device or cancel their app apps. Apple certainly prefers that you don’t even have any, since it makes money both from its App store and from iPhone sales. But you can see why it’s important to watch as if it’s doing something to lower the digital din.

An ever-draining work culture was a problem before the pandemic and has worsened considerably since then.

We are in the midst of a “burnout epidemic,” according to Jennifer Moss, a U.S. labor expert who co-authored a survey of workers in 46 countries last year. Most say the work was bad, she said he wrote in a Harvard Business Review. As one interviewee said: “E-mails start at 5 and a half hours and don’t end until 22 hours, because they know you have nowhere else to go. For single people without families it’s bad, because you can’t say , “I need to go take care of my kids.”

These words are supported by official statistics in the UK showing people working from home last year put in an average of six hours of overtime without pay per week on average, compared with 3.6 hours for those who never worked from home.

Consider that work at home is here to stay post-lockdowns, in part because many employees want it, which means problems. Long working hours kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, a revolutionary World Health Organization study he said last month. More than 55 hours of work a week can be risky, he found.

It is not surprising that governments around the world are facing increasing pressure to give workers something long considered a suspicious novelty – the right to disconnect.

This spreads faster than you might think, and not just in docile, white-collar workforce. Police in the Australian state of Victoria have recently earned the right to fire themselves after hours in what their employee said the association it was the first deal of its kind for a justice agency. People were “sick of feeling like they were in service 24/7,” and they needed a chance to rest and recover, the association said. Too many work messages after hours were trivial or they could easily wait.

Ireland introduced a code of conduct on the right to disconnect in April and Canada is watching a similar move, as are other nations.

This is good. Fears that such measures will stifle employers ’flexibility are exaggerated. “It’s not about nine to five,” says Andrew Pakes, director of research at the UK’s Prospect union, which promotes disconnection rights. “It doesn’t mean people will say, ‘It’s 17:02 pm so I won’t reply to that email.'” Nor does it mean a blanket, it requires a one-size-fits-all approach. That is not what has happened in France, where a law requiring companies with more than 50 employees to negotiate agreements on the best way to shut down has been in place for more than four years.

Workers at telecommunications company Orange in France will not respond to work messages on weekends, holidays or evenings – or when doing training, a spokeswoman said. In other companies, workers returning from vacation can spend an entire day recovering from what they have missed without having to deal with customers or internal meetings, said Alex Sirieys, head of the international sector in France. FO-Com union.

Sirieys says not all disconnection policies are perfect. “It depends on the will of the CEO,” he told me last week. Success is also based on employees and managers simply talking, engaging, and engaging common sense, or common sense. However, the ability to turn off has always made a lot of sense and never more than it does now.

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark





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