Derek Thompson writes on the “joys and sorrows of late-night email:”
For a certain class of workers, late evening isn’t time off work. It’s time on email, time to show your addressees the true meaning of workaholic, and time to return to a job from which you can never truly sign out.
[I]f the pressures of globalization and a flimsy economy have endangered the set-hour workweek, mobile technology has obliterated it. In an unpublished Harvard Business School survey that I reviewed last year, American managers and workers reported that they were “on”—either working or “monitoring” work while being accessible—almost 90 hours a week. With this new denominator, email isn’t 28 percent of a 45-hour workweek. It’s 14 percent of a workweek that begins when our heads lift off the pillow and ends when we fall, face-first and exhausted, back into it. Wake-up-to-power-down is the new 9-to-5.
This is but one of several recent pieces on the theme of e-mail-is-destroying-our-lives. Brad Stone’s Bloomberg Businessweek article from earlier this month is also good:
Work has been leeching onto people’s off-duty time for years. E-mail makes it easier to communicate and more likely that annoyingly ambitious colleagues will respond to every message, at length and in real time…. With the growing irresistibility of the smartphone and the ubiquity of cloud collaboration, evening work for many professionals has become standard. We come home from the office, change into more comfortable clothes, put the kids to bed, and maybe open a bottle of wine. And then we grab our laptops and log back in.
“This is now a common thing,” says Beth Livingston, an assistant professor of human resource studies at Cornell University, who cites the growth of salaried jobs and types of work that can be accomplished outside the office as factors behind the new night shift. “We don’t produce anything that is easy to see, so the only way to measure our output is by working hard.”…
When the boss is a workaholic, that timetable inevitably gets passed on, viruslike, to subordinates. “We set expectations with employees up front,” Helman says. “This isn’t an environment where people only work 9 to 5.”…
Forget about trying to take some time off from the grind. “I took three weeks off for my honeymoon and have literally worked every single night since,” says David Mars, 38, a partner at New York-based venture capital firm White Owl Capital Partners, in a conversation that happens late on a Monday when, naturally, we’re both still working. Mars’s bête noire is e-mail, which flows in at all hours from his portfolio companies in China, Europe, and North America. “It’s a nonstop merry-go-round,” he says. “It really is a global economy. And the global economy is destroying all our personal lives.”