To Send (or Not to Send) an After Hours Email, That Is the Question

after hours email

Should you send employees emails after work hours?

As entrepreneurs, our minds are always on our businesses and we tend to be in a hurry about everything, so it seems only natural to fire off an email about work the minute something comes to mind. That could be at 9 p.m., midnight or 2 in the morning. For your employees, however, receiving emails from the boss after work is likely to be seen as intrusive and can even make them downright angry, a new study shows.

The study identified two kinds of employees: Integrators and Segregators.

Segregators, who like to keep their work and their personal lives separate, got particularly upset by receiving work-related emails after hours. They felt the emails interfered with their personal lives.

Even integrators, who don’t mind mixing work with their personal lives, got annoyed by after-hours emails. Their curiosity about what was going on at work often outweighed the anger, if the emails were brief and/or positive — but the good feelings didn’t last long.

Not surprisingly, both groups of employees got angry when receiving emails that were negative or required work to be done after hours, interfering with their personal lives in a more significant way.

You may not be able to avoid sending the occasional email after hours these days. But the study suggests some steps to make the communications less intrusive, and keep your team happier.

  • Set boundaries for when and when not to send emails. In general, you might want to restrict work-related emails to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., or some time frame that makes sense with your business and the hours most of your team works. Of course, this rule might vary based on departments or roles. For instance, you and your key managers may want to email at night because it’s the only time you can get work done. That’s fine, as long as you’re not emailing subordinates.
  • Provide training in good email communications. Writing clear subject lines and keeping emails short will lessen time needed to read and respond to them. The study found brief emails that convey positive news (“Great job”) are least likely to cause negative emotions. Try to use positive, encouraging language, and don’t forget to be polite. Saying “Hello,” “Please,” “Thank you,” or “I appreciate all your hard work” can help emails come across as more positive.
  • Know what subjects are better discussed in person. Sensitive topics such as reprimanding an employee, delivering bad news or anything that’s likely to be misinterpreted should wait until you can talk face-to-face. Don’t send cryptic emails like “We need to talk about this tomorrow,” which will likely have your employee up all night worrying.
  • Set expectations. If you do send an after-hours email that doesn’t require action, let the recipient know it doesn’t need an immediate response and can wait until morning.

Email in Bed Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

3 Reactions
  1. I don’t like it so I don’t do it to my employees. You should learn to respect boundaries. If they’re resting, let them rest and do their thing.