Telepressure. The new email disease.

by Productivity

Are you expected to work evenings and weekends?
Do you check email on vacations?
If so, you may be suffering from Telepressure.

Companies can offer incentives and bonuses that don't equate to much at the end of the day. If you are working 60 hours a week, is an extra $5000 going to be able to make up for your lost time toward your health, family or friends? There's a phenomenon called telepressure that our society is feeling the ramifications of on how we sleep, work and play. Fifty-two percent of Americans check their email before and after work, during sick days and on vacation. I'm actually surprised it's not more.

Telepressure, according to Larissa Barber, PhD, is the urge to respond immediately to work-related messages, no matter what time they come in. When you check your email during off-hours, you are re-exposing yourself to workplace stressors. A study from Northern Illinois University found that the health effects of telepressure included sleep issues, high levels of burnout and increased work absences.
As stated in The Corporate Athlete, it's not the amount of workload a person has to deal with that gets them. It's the lack of renewal.

Are we bringing this on ourselves or are we really expected to be available all the time? The study showed that this urgency isn't an individual problem, it's a company culture problem. We feed off the behavior of our peers and colleagues.

I recently did a workshop with a global company and stressed the importance of not sending emails in the evenings or on weekends. One of the feedback responses was that they were a global company and it shouldn't matter. In some ways, they are correct, but if they are dealing with a subordinate in the same time zone and are sending a message at 10pm, that employee may feel the need to respond. Plus, we treat people how we work. If we are always on, we are expected to always be on. When someone says to me “If I don't respond right away they call me to ask if I got their email”. If this has ever happened to me, I don't remember it. Why? Probably because since I'm not an immediate responder, no one expects me to answer immediately. I've taught people that if they need me urgently, they should pick up the phone.

Email is never urgent. Never.

Some companies have policies implemented like No Email Fridays or No Weekend Emails. Lovesocial and Vynamic encourage employees NOT to email on evenings and weekends or between 10pm and 6am. If that's your productive time, it's fine to work off-line on email and just wait until the next day to sync and send.

One of my clients works high up on the food chain as a consultant for six companies. She told them all she works in the evenings and was available for email. When I told her to stop checking after 5:30, she stated that this could cause an issue with the C.E.O.s.  Two weeks later she realized that she was actually the cause of evening emails. When she stopped sending, she also stopped receiving. She was creating work for the very people she thought she would offend!

Stop your telepressure. If you can't change your culture, at least try to start with your group or the top five people you email the most.
Email is a tool. It's not a jail cell.

want to be the first to hear health-powered productivity tips? subscribe here.

Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects