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Think a Ban on After-Hours Email is Crazy? Think Again.

For years, I suggested to my clients that they consider having corporate policies for after hours email. Portable technology plus bad user habits contribute to an “always-on” environment that is bad for employees and bad for the businesses that employ them. My clients thought I was crazy for suggesting that maybe corporate email after hours was a bad idea. But now there are successful examples to point to. Read on for the story of one of them.Unproductive Email Habits

 

Dan Calista wants nothing less than to create “the healthiest company in the world.”

Dan is founder and CEO of Vynamic, a healthcare consulting company based in Philadelphia. Early on, his business-owner parents instilled in him the belief that it’s the people who make or break a business.

And he shares my belief that if people are happy at work, they can bring more energy to their personal lives, be more engaged in their community and give back to society in a way that’s impossible when they are drained and exhausted by their job.

What makes Dan different from some other CEOs is that instead of just tossing around terms like “work-life balance,” he is motivated to be continually learning what that concept really means and implementing new solutions to help employees achieve it. Leaders like Dan realize that employees’ happiness and wellbeing contribute to their success, which then contributes to the success of the company.

How ‘Zmail’ Works

At the foundation of Vynamic’s healthy culture is the “zmail” policy. Zmail means no corporate email from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week, and all day on weekends and holidays.

In speaking with Dan, I got the sense that it surprises him that this still needs to be a policy at all. He said it came out of a lot of discussion, both internally and with clients, about the appropriate use of email. His company embodies the principles of effective communication and not using email for urgent issues.

He also thinks the zmail policy raises the threshold for communication, which is one of the principles of managing email taught in my corporate Managing the Madness program: Because it’s so easy to share information, we share way too much. If there are hours when email is off the table, it causes people to stop and think, “Do I really need to share this information?” And that extra layer of consideration saves the company time by reducing excessive communication.

Find Your Own Flow

When I asked Dan if zmail had ever created problems, he told me that in order for the policy to work, the company needed to create a safe environment in which staff feels comfortable talking about email use. He also stressed that it’s not a “work curfew,” and that employees can cultivate whatever workflow works for them, even if it’s sometimes during nontraditional work hours. They are, however, encouraged not to impose their flow on other people, and instead to leave the message in their drafts folder until business hours. This is a great example of how his staff can be “empowered” over their productivity.

Dan tells me that the company’s employee retention rate is in the 90th percentile, and he attributes that at least in part to the healthy culture. When I asked Dan about other companies modeling his zmail policy, he told me that he wished everyone did it, but also that he feels that it’s important that each company find a rhythm that works for its own unique situation.

Vynamic is a successful case study for the growing body of evidence of the relationship between culture and productivity: Employees who are happier and less stressed at work are more productive and more engaged in the mission of the organization.

Takeaways

  • A healthy culture that supports employees’ well-being maximizes the success of both the company and its employees
  • Employees should have a clear understanding about which communication methods are appropriate in different situations
  • It’s possible to respect individual employees’ workflow styles while still giving people an opportunity to unplug
  • A ban on after-hours email is just one piece of a healthy culture, and should only be implemented after open group discussions on the topic. Or invite a productivity expert to help.

If you think your corporate culture could be improved, give me a call. I can help you bring more sanity to the daily operations (which lowers burnout and makes employees enjoy their work more), while still helping people get more done.

Thanks for reading!

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