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Workers of the World, Unplug!
August 31, 2014 6:26 AM   Subscribe

End the Tyranny of 24/7 Email — THIS Labor Day weekend, odds are you’ll peek at your work email on your “day off” — and then feel guilty about it.
posted by cenoxo (46 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm definitely not getting work related e-mails this weekend, although I do have to admit checking my work e-mail from time to time, to see if anything comes in from our West Coast office while they are still there, and I'm at home, eating dinner. It's not a burden to me to answer a question or two that will save someone's end of the day there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:31 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I stopped reading all email about a year ago. I'll check it if I'm expecting something, but otherwise -- if you need me, call me.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:35 AM on August 31


I don't know why I'd feel guilty about it. (I just spent an hour or so doing just that, and now I'm off to take my three toddlers out for the day. Guess which of those activities is harder work.)
posted by jpe at 6:40 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I presume the "you" in question is the same mob who follow all that NYT lifestyle bullshit, right?

(or is it people who think "odds are" = "38% of nameless grouping"?)
posted by pompomtom at 6:40 AM on August 31


What wonderful magical world is this where people actually respond to work email in under a month?
posted by The Whelk at 6:43 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I can get work email on my phone but turned off notifications for that account, and I find it is no trouble whatsoever to avoid even thinking about work on weekends.
posted by misskaz at 6:53 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


Currently I am reading metafilter and writing on my work phone. The only two work emails I have received were 12:30 AM pre-canned salesforce generated discussion group emails that I am trained to skim and ignore.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:06 AM on August 31


I usually come in on a Monday with only a half a dozen emails in my inbox and most of those are just from the people who come in earlier than I do. That's so different from my last job where we had sites on both coasts and outsourced teams in India sending emails at off hours. Where I am now, everyone is co-located and most of our communication is face to face.
posted by octothorpe at 7:13 AM on August 31


I've started bringing the dirty plates and silverware from home into work and cleaning them in the dishwasher in the break room. Saves me a bunch of time and money as well as scoring me some major points in the annual domestic performance review.
posted by mr.ersatz at 7:13 AM on August 31 [21 favorites]


i prefer to check my e-mail whenever I can, just so that i'm not buried in messages when I get back to the office.
I dread taking even a single day off because it takes 2 days just to get up to speed again (I like a clean Inbox).
We've got a vacation planned and I have no idea what I'll do - completely unplug and pay for it when we get back, or spend 30 minutes or so a few times a day just to put out small fires.
It looks like it's going to be the latter - I dread the post-vacation avalanche that many of my colleagues have to deal with after their time away from the office - I find that particular stress completely erases any benefits the time off provided.
posted by bitteroldman at 7:16 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


most of our communication is face to face.

"face to face"...
ponders quizzically for a bit...

oh, this is like some kind of Facebook app, right?
posted by bitteroldman at 7:19 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


One of the very best things about my career change several years ago was no longer feeling guilty about not checking work email when not at work.

My first boss at my last corporate gig was awful; she'd email me all times of day and night and expect responses. When I got away from her, my new boss and I had a discussion (initiated by him!) about boundaries and work/life balance, which ended up with him saying essentially "If I email you between 6pm and 7am, ignore it until you're at work. If it's something mission-critical, I'll call." Which he only did, like, twice.

But now? Leaving work means leaving work except inasmuch as I think about food all the time. It's so, so, so good.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:23 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


Sure I'll check my work emails on Labor Day: as far as I'm concerned, it's just another normal working day, so since I'll be at work why not check my work emails (and maybe a little metafilter and fb and...)
posted by easily confused at 7:24 AM on August 31


I set up an out of office response for long weekends and other incommunicado times. That counts as a response.
posted by Renoroc at 7:25 AM on August 31


Who "checks email" anymore? It sounds so old fashioned.

One of my favorite things about switching to android from an iphone is that I no longer get the little number bubble reminder about unattended-to stuff. My emails come in, they show up on my recent things docket, and I can very satisfyingly swipe away anything I get from work, never to see it or be reminded about it again until I actually want to.

It also means that I won't miss the occasional email from my boss where he's gotten stuck in an airport somewhere and desperately needs my help. I'm ok answering those on the weekend.

The ones from my coworker who literally sends work emails at all hours of the night about bullshit? Swipey swipey.
posted by phunniemee at 7:34 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I don't work a M-F job, and I work a lot from home at various times of day, so weekends and weekdays are pretty much the same. The nice part about weekends is that almost nobody ever emails me, and I have a stated policy that emails received on Thu, Fri, or Sat will get replies by Mon (24 hour turnaround the rest of the time), so there's no pressure to do it right away if I don't feel like it. I do try to take a full non-computer day once a week so my lifetime-at-a-keyboard-produced disabilities get some rest and recovery time, but it usually doesn't happen.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:40 AM on August 31


Pfft...I work for state government. I haven't even heard from 80% of my coworkers for the entire month of August.
posted by medeine at 7:48 AM on August 31 [7 favorites]


My 45 year old brother was just hired at a rung midway up the management ladder at a big corporation headquartered outside Chicago.

"Where's my cell phone and laptop?"

"You don't get one."

"How will I check email or take calls outside of the office?"

"You don't."

<stunned awareness of awesome>
posted by fatbird at 7:59 AM on August 31 [13 favorites]


I'm an attorney at a small law firm and have to travel a lot for my job. I don't do a lot with my email on weekends or my rare vacations for the most part, but the idea of not checking it seems... impractical.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:04 AM on August 31


Maybe it's time we had some sort of campaign to limit how much time a week you have to work. Let's say, 40 hours, give or take. We'll call it the 40 hour work week!
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:06 AM on August 31 [19 favorites]


I'm responsible for the security of the products of a multinational IT equipment company. I check my email 24/7/365 because the world doesn't take time off. No one has ever told me I have to, but experience has shown it's bad when I don't.
posted by tommasz at 8:23 AM on August 31


Who "checks email" anymore?
Me. My work email is separate from my personal email, and my personal email is routed to my phone and home computer. If I'm not at work, I have to log on to my work email and check it, and I don't do that very often. I check a couple of times a weekend, just in case something major has come up, but I almost never respond until Monday. I am not well-paid or important enough to work when I'm not at work.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:26 AM on August 31 [3 favorites]


Ooooh is "I don't know why anyone checks email" the new "I used to like that band before they got popular."?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:40 AM on August 31 [4 favorites]


We do have the option of configuring work email on our personal phones but I'm just not going to contaminate my personal space with work stuff.
posted by octothorpe at 8:42 AM on August 31


I do wonder, though, if part of it is that if you don't check your email at home, it's sort of admitting that you're not very important. Checking email at home is a way of signaling that you're really vital, whether you are or not. And in the rat-race that is US work culture, it feels risky to admit that your company can survive the night or weekend without you.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:49 AM on August 31 [9 favorites]


If you're really important you don't check your own work e-mail.
posted by The Whelk at 8:55 AM on August 31 [9 favorites]


Who "checks email" anymore?

Definitely me, and it's by design. I don't own a smartphone and use my cell only in emergencies. I have a computer at home and one at work, and I spend 92% of time in one of those places, and I'm never away from a computer for more than an hour or two, so there's no reason why I need to be contactable if I'm out eating lunch or driving around or whatever.

So I do check email, either as it comes in as I work at the computer or multiple times a day if I'm not doing computer stuff. In online teaching and educational admin, it's much, much better to check in super-often so you can solve problems while they're still campfire-sized rather than 12 or 24 or 72 hours later when they have become a raging conflagration of freaked-outness.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:55 AM on August 31


I'm on vacation and just checked my email for first time on a week. Forgot to unsubscribe from email list, is what i discovered, as well as an awful webmail interface. Back to deciding if it's too damn cold and wet to ride into yellowstone today...
posted by maxwelton at 8:58 AM on August 31


I used to have email notification on my smartphone for both work and personal email - I work in IT. My boss would regularly send me emails in the evening, and expect me to respond right away.

After one particularly gnarly stretch before christmas, I informed him I was going to France for my break, and I would not be checking email. I set my phone to not even sync to my work email any more, except manually. I haven't turned it back on yet, and have no intention of doing so.

I'm not sure if he's noticed yet that I no longer answer emails until the next morning, or just doesn't want to kick up yet another stink over trying to put me on-call 24/7 - he wants me to sign up to be available to come to site any time, any date, including holidays, for free - I've repeatedly told him to stuff that. Fortunately, there are still some labour protections left in the UK, so I'm pretty sure I'm on solid ground to refuse. I've offered alternatives and slightly more sane arrangements given there's no on-call in my contract, but he's not interested in anything less than being at his beck and call 24/7.

The peace of mind of disconnecting entirely in the evening and weekends, and just not caring about the latest storm-in-a-teacup until I'm actually back at work is tremendous.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:15 AM on August 31 [3 favorites]


I have set an out of office reply that informs anyone trying to contact me that they are an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill, and that they should file a help ticket with Jesus because I'm not doing shit for them.
posted by thelonius at 9:42 AM on August 31 [7 favorites]


We've got a vacation planned and I have no idea what I'll do - completely unplug and pay for it when we get back, or spend 30 minutes or so a few times a day just to put out small fires.

You're not unmissable.

If you are unmissable, they don't pay you enough.

You'll be surprised how well your cow-orkers can cope without you if you don't enable them.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:57 AM on August 31 [8 favorites]


I'm responsible for the security of the products of a multinational IT equipment company. I check my email 24/7/365 because the world doesn't take time off. No one has ever told me I have to, but experience has shown it's bad when I don't.

Seems a bit odd for a multinational to have only one person for their security, but welcome to sysadmin burnout.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:00 AM on August 31 [7 favorites]


We actually had a betting pool Friday on how many emails our boss was going to have in his inbox when he got back from his two week vacation. He doesn't have smart phone and didn't take his laptop to the beach. He was totally out of communication for that whole time but somehow the team didn't fall apart and we got all of our work done during the time.
posted by octothorpe at 10:09 AM on August 31


We too have the option of configuring work email on our personal phones but I'm just not willing to sign the waiver to allow that option and give the company permission to wipe my phone remotely and completely at any time should it become necessary.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 10:14 AM on August 31


You're not unmissable.

I'm totally missable and not the least bit indispensible. I just hate cracking open the Inbox after an absence and finding eleventy billion emails waiting. It's the yardwork principle: I'd rather rake and dispose of the leaves once every week in leaf-falling season than let them pile up and do one massive raking marathon in November. This prevents them from becoming a rotting soggy mess along the way and ensures that if the first snowstorm catches you unawares, you don't spend the winter dreading a terrible spring clean-up.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:46 AM on August 31 [2 favorites]


Wait, I'm supposed to use my laptop outside of normal working hours? I thought they just gave it to me for business continuity in case some disaster knocks out the building my office is in.
posted by ckape at 10:48 AM on August 31


You'll be surprised how well your cow-orkers can cope without you if you don't enable them.

Eh, I don't really agree with this. I work in the legal industry, and there are lots of times that we unfortunately need information from someone who is on vacation or out of the office.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:43 AM on August 31


My vacation policy usually is...delete all of the incoming emails upon return. If it was important, they'll remind you. Rarely am I reminded.
posted by mmb5 at 11:49 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite things about switching to android from an iphone is that I no longer get the little number bubble reminder about unattended-to stuff.

Just FYI for anyone else reading this, you have control over this on iPhones too. You can set it to get notifications in the notification center (or not) and bubble notifications (or not) and you can do it by account. So I get bubbles on my Mail icon for my Gmail account but not for work, and I could set it to get the notification center alerts of various types if I wanted.
posted by misskaz at 11:52 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


My vacation policy usually is...delete all of the incoming emails upon return. If it was important, they'll remind you

You are what is wrong with humanity.
posted by The Whelk at 12:50 PM on August 31 [3 favorites]


Seems a bit odd for a multinational to have only one person for their security, but welcome to sysadmin burnout.

Yeah, I took that as "I work for a multinational company that doesn't have a group-based coverage system for its essential security functions and instead relies on a single person to check their email because they conduct business like a slapshod 100-500 employee organization..." But part of that reality is the enablement and allowing one's self to be that "single point of contact" even when you're on vacation. Not good for anyone, really.

No, the entire world does not take time off all at once. Yes, everyone single one of us should do it when given the opportunity, and if we're so privileged, we do a disservice to the rest of the underprivileged by giving up those basic things and reifying a back-to-basic-shittiness feudal lifestyle.

Every time we go "but I'm so important I have to work til 4AM on my day off" (I've been there many times and kick myself all the live-long-completely ruined day aferward) we're just enabling an increasingly exploitative regime to pillage every semblance of a modern American dream.

Blah
posted by aydeejones at 1:08 PM on August 31 [4 favorites]


(See also, American unemployment being largely a problem of "the employed performing what should be the jobs of 2-3 people" and organizations staffing themselves so that anyone who has "made it" in a corporate setting is essentially on call all of the time, and instead of being a wage slave is now a time slave)
posted by aydeejones at 1:10 PM on August 31 [5 favorites]


if part of it is that if you don't check your email at home, it's sort of admitting that you're not very important.

I'm not important, I'm a peon. Also, due to security reasons I can't do my job from another location, so even if I checked my e-mails, I couldn't actually do anything work wise. Muahahahah.

Meanwhile, on Friday I had some panicky girl asking me some question I had no idea about. I think my boss might be the only one who'd know, so I passed on her business card. "Will she be checking her e-mail over the weekend?"

Me: "Well, her daughter's moving out of the country this weekend, so...." Privately I was thinking, "God, I hope not."
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:47 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I work for a company that's absolutely paranoid about security, so logging in from home requires about twelve passwords and takes at least 15 minutes (and there's absolutely no email on phones ever). There are plenty of problems with this but it does mean I'm not expected to check email at night or on vacation.
posted by miyabo at 5:50 PM on August 31 [2 favorites]


Cannot bring work home.
Cannot deal substantively with work issues except at work.
Cannot access principal work email account(s) from home.

And after working in my current position for three years, I've actually started taking some of the leave I've accrued over the last 8. This "your time is the company's time!" is some seriously rank bullshit, and it makes me sad because the more employers get away with that shit, the more they pull it.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:51 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]


I just hate cracking open the Inbox after an absence and finding eleventy billion emails waiting.

Mark read: all.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:37 AM on September 1


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