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off-hours communications

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Off-hours communications are work-related emails, texts, phone calls, social media messaging and other communications that are transmitted when an employee is not officially working. The term is generally understood to apply to times outside of work hours, which may be specific as in nine-to-five, or any time beyond the employee’s contractual agreement, such as 40 hours a week.

The ongoing trends of mobile computing and telecommuting mean that employees often work from home, in coffee shops, hotels and airports, among a great number of other possibilities. Employees may be accessible through multiple channels throughout much of their days and nights. However, receiving and responding to work-related communications makes it hard to distinguish between work hours and free time. It’s also difficult to calculate the amount of time that off-hours communications take, since they tend to be intermittent and sporadic.

Furthermore, those messages have a greater effect on the employee than just the time it takes to communicate. According to interruption science, it typically takes employees 23 minutes to return fully to what they were doing after an interruption, and that is likely to be as true for an evening with your family as it is for work-related tasks.

To prevent employee burnout, the best practice is to clearly define what off-hours consist of within an organization and make it corporate policy to refrain from sending communications at those times. 

This was last updated in July 2019

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