By David Holton, Director of Americas
As anyone who read our recent blog about changing working times will know, tech employees are working in pockets of all hours of the day and night, rather than the typical 9 – 5.
Often it’s to do with family commitments, but just as much it’s about global teams communicating as far apart as Sydney to San Francisco.
And as much as this covers the week, it also covers the weekend. Generally speaking, the people that work the most at the weekend – or Sunday night at any rate – are people in positions of power. That Monday morning 9am team meeting didn’t plan itself after all.
But unfortunately, when the CEO, MD or similar starts sending those Sunday night emails, employees are inclined to reply in real-time, for obvious reasons of being seen to be working, checking emails and so on. Which means that Sunday night has become the new Monday morning, and the Sunday blues about going back to work the next day probably kicks in even earlier!
In the States, they call this the Sunday Scaries, and they’re trying to do something about it. Companies such as Vynamic created a tool called zzzMail which queues all emails sent or received after Friday 6pm to 6am on Monday morning. It was even put forward to NYC council to outlaw employees to be made to communicate after work hours, but this was deemed a step too far (as sometimes people obviously want to).
Whatever the methods of prevention, it struck me that it would be far better to work on the cure. The reason that people reply to the CEO on a Sunday is hierarchy, and it’s something Google identified and wanted to protect itself from early on in its growth. Rather than the final decision of a group team meeting being the opinion of the most senior member, it resolved to A/B split test all marketing suggestions, regardless of level.
Other organisations also recognised the dangers of CEO-led diktats. Seb Coe famously organised the London 2012 Olympics to great success without sending a single email, while VW banned all internal emails between colleagues to increase productivity. Former TSB CEO Paul Pester – despite the IT problems that later befell his tenure – firmly believed that if you needed to work outside of normal hours then you just weren’t being efficient enough.
Ultimately, it seems to me that the problem comes when companies with a modern, diverse workforce and global obligations try to force everyone into the usual 9-5 routine, so that the time spent working at evenings and weekends can never be reclaimed. And as usual, it’s these businesses who will lose their best employees to those which trust their employees and flex with the times.
What do you think? Do companies like EY who install an “always on” culture need to change their game?
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