Should You Respond To Late Night Emails From Your Boss?

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One issue that has become a hot button topic in the workplace is whether you should respond to late night emails from your boss?

Before we all became hyper-connected and had a smart phone in our pockets the worse a boss could do if they wanted to reach you late at night was call you on a landline or your cell phone. Chances are unless it was super urgent they would just wait until the next day at work.

This isn’t always the case now and many employees find that they are bombarded with emails at all hours of the day and night.

In fact it has become such an issue that Germany and France have banned email after hours!

But if you live elsewhere, the question you must constantly ask yourself is should I respond to this late night email from my boss?

It’s a tough situation to find yourself in. You don’t want to let your boss down, but on the same hand you have to “switch off” at some point and potentially have friends and family you are spending your time with.

Before you jump up and down about the situation you should stop and consider whether your boss actually intends for you to respond now? It could just be that they are doing some work and sending emails on things that come to mind with no intention for you to do anything until tomorrow at work.

If you find yourself in this situation and choose to ignore the email there shouldn’t be anything wrong with seeking clarification the next day on whether they expected you to respond.

This decision ultimately lies on you as an individual and what you feel is an appropriate amount of work to be asked to do each day given your role, compensation and experience level.

Reasons Why You Should Respond To A Late Night Email From Your Boss

Should You Respond To Late Night Emails From Your Boss - Why You Should Respond

Common reasons for choosing to respond include:

  • You are a key employee involved in an ongoing discussion and before other people can continue their work they require an answer or input from you.
  • Your company has an overseas office and an email has been sent during their normal business hours. If you wait until tomorrow there will be a further delay until the other team starts at their end.
  • There is an urgent or unexpected situation that requires your attention. Essentially something has gone wrong and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
  • You are a new or junior employee who is trying to work your way up the organisation and want to show that you are responsive to the needs of your boss and organisation.

Each of these are valid reasons to respond to a late night email from your boss. However, you must keep in mind that if you do it often enough they may come to expect it. Therefore you need to be clear in your own mind whether the boundaries start and end.

Reasons Why You Should Not Respond To Late Night Emails From Your Boss

Should You Respond To Late Night Emails From Your Boss - Why You Should not Respond

Considering the other side of the coin there are times where you choose not to respond to an individual email or any email for that matter sent outside of work hours.

Its easy to understand why this may be the case. You don’t want to feel chained to a 24 hour work schedule and responding to emails interferes with time you are spending with family and friends.

Other reasons why you may chose not to respond to a late night email include:

  • You may not have access to all the information/ material you need at home in order to respond to the email.
  • If it is later in the evening you may not as be as focused or productive as you need to be in order to give the required respond.
  • The email is not or may not appear to be urgent and therefore you decide that it can wait until tomorrow.
  • You understand that replying to some emails may lead it to becoming an expected behavior by your boss or employer
  • The chance for miscommunication may increase as you try and write the email and get it over and done with quickly, rather than spending the amount of time required to formulate an appropriate response.

At the end of the day, as an employer you should recognise that most employees are going to prefer to shut off after work. If you feel that you need to write an email after hours you should specify whether it requires their attention or is something they can work on tomorrow. And if it is really that urgent perhaps it is better to make a quick phone call so you can get to the bottom of the issue quicker.

Finally, if you are the employee you need to set your own boundaries and also speak to your boss if you feel that late night emails are beginning to intrude on your life. This is easier said that done, but you may be misinterpreting the situation. Perhaps they never expected you to reply then and there in the first place.

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About Author

Paul Towers - Founder @ Task Pigeon

Paul Towers is a 3x Entrepreneur and Founder of Task Pigeon. Join me on my journey to build an open & transparent startup from day one. Paul is also the founder of Startup Soda, a newsletter curating the best content from the Australian startup ecosystem.