Most of us tend to receive emails after our official working hours and some of us are constantly looking at their smart phone to keep track of emails coming in. Today emails are instant and the expectation to respond is just as immediate. The promptness has become the same as text messaging however not having emails on our phone is something of the past and is for many, a case of not knowing (literally!) how they lived without emails on their phone before some IT guru came up with the idea! However the question that one may ask is whether we are obliged to answer an email sent to us at 10.00 p.m. from our employer.
There is no law saying that we must do so however most of us feel compelled and fear repercussions if we do not. What follows is the question as to whether this is now out of control and we are actually working much harder and longer than we bargained for and as a result we are suffering from stress.
Andrea Nahles, the German employment minister, has decided to take this into her own hands and has commissioned a report on the feasibility of legislation to control employers from e-emailing employees outside working hours. She is suggesting that there is an association between employees’ continual availability and mental illness, following a report by the German Pension Insurance Union which displayed a rise in the number of German workers taking early retirement due to stress.
Let us see whether this will eventually become law and whether the UK will follow or whether the European Union will issue a Directive and we will have no option but to comply!
In the meantime employers may want to review their current (unwritten) policy and perhaps evaluate whether employees may be under pressure and whether their sickness records have anything to do with stress related to working continuously.