E-mailing for work during the weekend

by Ingrid Robeyns on October 23, 2021

I recall, a few years ago, seeing a FB-friend mention that they think emailing for work during weekends is really bad, and should not be done. At the time, that surprised me – as long as it’s clear that no-one expects anyone to read or respond to emails during the weekends, what’s the problem? But that initial response might be too quick, and I’m increasingly having second thoughts about this – though have not come to a clear position on this matter. So this made me wonder what the smart people here think about emailing for work during the weekend.

Here are a few reasons why emailing during the weekend might be bad. First, the sender might think they are not imposing any expectations on the receiver, but that might not be how the receiver experiences it. In that case, they are infringing on the private time of their co-worker. Second, if the sender has some sort of power over the receiver (being their boss, supervisor, etc.), then this might even be more so. Third, if people regularly email during the weekend, they are effectively signaling/telling that one can’t do this job without working at least part of the weekend, and it might be problematic to convey that message to those who aspire having such a job in the future (e.g. PhDs or postdocs receiving messages from professors during the weekend), since it might put off those who want to have healthy/balanced lives to stay in that sector. Finally, perhaps an argument could be made that it is a collective protection/self-binding strategy to not send emails during the weekend in an attempt to contain the working week to Monday to Friday. But I am not sure that argument works, give that there are so many other work related things we can do and do do during the weekend. [click to continue…]