Unplug Already: Why Stopping Work at the End of The Workday May Make You More Productive

As we head into the New Year and a new list of resolutions, many of us will make a pact with ourselves to have a better work/life balance. That may come in the form of turning off the screen and walking away from the computer at the end of the workday. And while some may feel guilty about not always being “on,” a new Korn Ferry survey of professionals shows it could make you more productive overall.

Although more than half of survey respondents say their company should have a rule that prohibits work calls and emails after hours, 88% say they still send emails and take calls past the regular business day.

Nearly three-quarters say they feel obligated to immediately return emails and take work calls, and 69% say they have had a boss who regularly expects them to respond outside of workday hours. Doing so may have the opposite effect of what managers want, as three-quarters of respondents say consistently being expected to work after hours makes them less productive.

Undoubtedly, the issue of working into the night is more pronounced here in the U.S. In other parts of the world, predominantly Europe, countries have or are looking to put in place legislation sometimes called the “right to disconnect,” which limits manager’s abilities to encroach on worker’s personal time with nighttime calls and emails, but here in the U.S., such efforts have achieved little traction either at the legislative or company levels. The continued practice of always being connected to work can have unintended detrimental effects like chronic stress, fatigue, and lowered productivity.

While managers often do not think twice about emailing after hours or on weekends, encouraging employees to stay in constant communication can actually hurt their job performance and contribute to burnout and a lack of job satisfaction. Even though there inevitably will be situations where an issue must be dealt with immediately, our advice to leaders is to really think about whether the topic is critical enough to warrant after-hours communications and if it is, recognize it as such to the employee so they can feel appreciated rather than taken for granted.

For those managers who depend on non-work hours to catch up on email, let employees know when things can wait until the next day so that they can feel comfortable not responding.  With so many nuances to the Great Resignation, this is another area in which leaders can help themselves create a positive culture.

As we head into 2022, it remains unclear how long we will continue to work remotely. While the survey shows the vast majority of professionals say it’s harder to unplug when your “office” is actually in the next room, it’s critical to your health, your personal life, and yes, even your productivity.


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