HR boss wants staff to avoid work emails after hours

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Telco 2degrees has introduced a programme where employees are being asked to avoid responding to work emails after hours.

The aim is to address the “pervasive nature of work in the digital world”, according to Jodie Shelley, head of HR at 2degrees.

“The trial aims to empower our people to leave work behind when they go home for the day,” said Shelley.

The announcement comes following a research project commissioned by the company revealing nearly one third of Kiwi workers feel obligated to respond to messages they receive outside of work hours.

The nationwide research looked at attitudes towards communication and technology in the workplace, surveying more than 2,000 NZ workers.

The results uncovered why Kiwi workers feel the need to respond to after-hours emails, with nearly a third saying they do it to show they’re committed or because they fear things will fall over if they don’t.

The reasons why Kiwi workers feel obligated to reply outside of hours:

  • 57% state they just like to stay on top of things
  • 30% to show they are committed
  • 29% because it’s the nature of their job/ industry and things will fall over if they don’t
  • 13% because everyone else in my organisation does it
  • 8% because they will get in trouble if they don’t reply

Shelley said the research findings made the company reflect closely on their own “practices, expectations and culture” in the digital workplace.

“We want our people to know there’s no expectation to work after hours – and to show that we needed to walk the talk,” said Shelley.

The new initiative aims to empower employees to disconnect when they’ve left work for the day, meaning they are not required to respond to emails, apart from in an emergency.

Shelley added that the company are “really conscious” of the need to make it work for their “hugely busy and varied workforce”.

“We didn’t want a blanket rule of set hours – that doesn’t suit the 24/7 nature of our network team. Nor does it fit for customer care or our stores,” said Shelley.

“We've got a strong culture of flexible working and people using that may choose to email earlier or later in the day if, for example, they’ve been doing school pick up, and sorting dinner and the kids.

“The point here is for the receiver; we wanted to set a clear understanding that home time is your time, and it’s okay to save that email ‘til tomorrow.”

Shelley added that 2degrees want the time their people have away from work to be focused on family, friends, their own interests and hobbies.

“Balance makes us healthier by reducing stress and anxiety, and that’s better for everyone.”

Moreover, 2degrees CEO Stewart Sheriff added that the response from employees has been “fantastic”.

“A lot has been about the feeling of being supported, and a sense of relief that it’s okay to switch off,” said Sheriff.

“The health of our business comes down to the health of our people, and I look forward to talking with them following the initial trial period.”

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