The Dean's Office banned after-hours email. Here's what happened next.

Email takes up 23% of the average professional's workday. And if you're a campus leader, you likely have to sift through a mountain of emails every day.

Many administrators are "swimming in emails" and play catch up during meetings or after work, write Andrew Martin and Anne Curzan for ChronicleVitae.

Late-night emails disrupt work-life balance and suggest that employees must be available around the clock, write Martin, the dean of the college of literature, science, and the arts at the University of Michigan, and Anne Curzan, an associate dean of humanities, also at the university.

"If a manager is sending emails on a regular basis after hours, employees will feel pressured to do so, too," says Joyce Maroney, the director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos. Late-night emails can drain employees—and burned-out employees are less effective and more likely to quit.

To curb excessive emails, Martin and Curzan asked their team to limit email traffic to working hours (7:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday), and to communicate face-to-face whenever possible. Martin and Curzan also clarified that leaders shouldn't expect or request support after the workday, unless it's an emergency.

How this university president manages 300 emails per day

When Martin and Curzan brought the proposed email policy to the dean's cabinet, many were skeptical and worried the curfew would make them less effective. But the policy has been so "transformative" that other offices and departments around campus have adopted similar policies, the authors write. Not only did employees send fewer late-night emails, but they also replaced some emails with a quick chat face-to-face.

Many team members still draft emails at night, but delay sending notes until the next morning. Under the email curfew, one administrator felt "a palpable sense of relief" to see an empty inbox. Most importantly, the policy reminds the team that few issues are urgent enough to warrant attention on a Saturday night, the authors write (Martin/Curzan, ChronicleVitae, 4/17).

Also see: 5 email mistakes that are wasting your time—and everyone else's


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