Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Disconnecting from work email

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iPhone 4

When I first got my iPhone in 2010, I very quickly set up my three most-used email accounts on it – my personal account at this domain, my Gmail account, and my work email account. Soon, every time I got an email on any of those accounts, no matter what time of day it was, my phone would duly ping me.

At weekends, when going through the unified inbox overview of all three, I’d duly delete the ‘calls for papers’ that various conferences send me (because they assume that anyone who works at a university is an academic) and carefully flagged up the emails that needed action for when I got back in the office on Monday. I thought I was being more productive this way, but actually, all I was doing was spreading what would be a five minute task at work throughout my weekend, when I should be relaxing.

More to the point, it was making it harder to switch off from work, and making checking my personal accounts more difficult as I had to wade through work emails to get to them.

It took until the start of 2012 before I finally decided that this was a silly way to do things. I was off work for two weeks – I’m lucky enough to work for an employer that gives everyone time off between Christmas and New Year, and I had some annual leave in early January. I was getting notifications of work emails, but it would be more than a week until I would be back in the office in order to actually do anything about them. So, I deleted my work email account off my phone.

In the time since, I have kind-of added it back. I use the now abandoned Sparrow client to access my work email on a purely ad-hoc basis, if required, but it’s kept separate from my personal email accounts (in the stock Mail app on my iPhone) and I don’t get notifications for it. So it’s there if I do need to access it – usually if I’m at work but away from the office – but I can’t be disturbed by work emails when I’m not at work.

I’m therefore pleased that, in France, there’s a new labour agreement to stop employees looking at work email after 6pm. France already has a mandatory 35 hour working week, meaning that French employees work shorter hours to improve their work-life balance. This goes further, and helps to prevent employees from doing work-related activities outside work hours.

If you are regularly checking work email when you’re not at work, I would recommend you to stop. It’ll help you disconnect from work and enjoy your free time more. And it often doesn’t save you much time at work either.

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