Checking Your Email at Home Isn’t Exactly What I Would Call “Working”

For most of their careers, my parents could never check their work email at home.

It did mean that they probably stopped working when they got home, unlike most professional employees today. My parents also rarely made it home at 5 pm, and worked in the office many Saturdays and Sundays when the work needed to get done.

When did we start defining work as sitting in the bathroom at home and replying to email for five minutes as work?

Let’s face it, most people aren’t really working when they are home. They like to believe that what they’re doing is real work, but if can also wait to be done the next morning when you arrive at the office, you’re not doing real work, you’re just narcissistic. Oh, I better immediately get back to John and tell him I can definitely do that interview at 8 am, next week Friday…

We act like checking work email at home is like we’re donating a kidney or something.

Checking email at home isn’t really work

CareerBuilder released a new survey this week that shows that 59 percent of males and 42 percent of females respond to emails when out of the office. Those numbers actually sound low to me.

The survey also shows that younger workers are more likely to think about work when going to bed and when waking. Just wait! Pretty soon thinking about work will be the same as work!

Are we losing our minds?

Seriously! I want to know. Having the ability to check and respond to emails outside of the office increase your work-life flexibility, but we talk about it like it’s an anchor.

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That iPhone is only an anchor if you make it an anchor!  Tomorrow, I’m taking a half day to go watch my son play baseball.  In between innings I always check my email and respond if necessary.

Work, or casually staying connected to your job?

Making the decision to take a half a day to watch my son play baseball is easy because I know I can balance both jobs I have — running a company and being a Dad. Does my son care that I’m checking email while he’s warming up in between innings?

No. He doesn’t even notice. It’s not like I’m behind the backstop giving a performance review over the phone while he’s up to bat! I’m just checking and following up on some emails.

If you decide you want to stay connected to your job and organization while you are out of the office, that is a personal decision. Don’t act like you’re going above and beyond by keeping up on your emails.

If keeping up on your emails is the real work you’re doing, you’re way overpaid!

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


2 Comments on “Checking Your Email at Home Isn’t Exactly What I Would Call “Working”

  1. may be that is something increasing stress level of young workers, including me. i always try to keep the business at work place and enjoy life at home but you are right, before going to bed and before leaving home for office in the morning i do check my email and its more like of a habit now. :/


  2. Yes, people make their electronic devices anchors that tie them to work. Bosses also have come to expect it. People should take some responsibility and realize 9/10 times, they actually didn’t really need to check that email. The world won’t fall apart for most companies and employees if they deal with it on Monday.

    But, it’s nonsense to say checking email and responding to it isn’t work. It is. There’s no doubt about this. Especially when you get messages from your boss that says things like “everyone should be checking their work email in the evenings and over the weekend. Our clients want timely responses, and we strive to differentiate ourselves by readily accessible.”

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