I lost a job opportunity because I answered this question the wrong way in an interview: “How do you feel about getting work e-mails at home in the evening?” I said I don’t accept e-mails from work in the evening. I do my work at work. The interviewer said it was standard practice at the company and that employees were expected to respond to e-mails “when they can.” Well, when I’m at home, I’m not at work — no matter what a company pays me. I know it cost me the job. I don’t care. But, what do you think of such a condition of employment?
Nick’s Quick Advice
I think it sucks. Would the employer let you do your food shopping during your work day?
Employers can ask for anything they want, as long as it’s legal. I don’t know whether requiring employees to respond to work e-mails at home in the evening is legal, but I don’t care, either. If a company has the right to require that, you also have the right to refuse the job. Of course, as you’ve seen, that may mean you won’t be hired. If you’re already an employee, and you refuse, you might get fired, assuming the requirement is legal. (Do we have any labor and employment attorneys out there who’d care to chime in?)
No more work e-mails after work
According to a recent Time magazine article, Helping workers switch off, you might solve your problem by moving to France or Germany.
“A new law says French companies with more than 50 workers must guarantee a ‘right to disconnect’ from emails outside office hours, to improve work-life balance.”
In Germany, major employers are joining a trend started by a government agency:
“Germany’s employment ministry bars its managers from contacting staff during off-hours, and major companies, including Volkswagen and BMW, have followed suit. In 2014, automaker Daimler began automatically deleting emails sent to employees on vacation.”
What’s absurd are laws that let workers stop working when they leave work. What’s absurd is the idea that when you go out that door, you’re still at work.
What should be instituted are laws requiring employers to pay workers extra — lots extra — for being on call around the clock, and giving workers the option to decline.
A bogus culture of “I work harder”
Being required to work at home, after work, is a time suck. But here’s the problem. Employers and business pundits promote a culture of working around the clock — and suggest it’s a matter of pride and an important work ethic. What it really means is, We hire suckers who’ll work all day long.
It’s a rip-off. If a job were 24X7, you’d live at your office or you’d be paid 24X7. Being asked to work at home is abuse, because the employer controls your paycheck — so you’re afraid to say no. But you can quit and go work for an employer that respects the value of rest, not to mention the importance of personal and family obligations.
I anticipate a whole bunch of “Yes, but…” rationalizations, so I’ll address them now.
- But if you really care about your job, you’d of course respond to your boss in the evening if you’re needed!
- What’s the big deal about replying to an e-mail or two in the evening?
- Sometimes work flows home — it’s why you’re paid a salary rather than an hourly wage!
They’re all rationalizations. Any company that can’t get its work done during work hours is mismanaged. At best, one might argue that a customer made a demand and the boss just passed it on to the employee in the evening via e-mail — and the company’s success hinges on being responsive to customers at all time. But even that is a rationalization. When a company permits its customers to run the company, the company is mismanaged — and it’s mismanaging its customers, too.
In my opinion, people who walk around with “I work evenings, too” tattooed to their foreheads are dopes begging to be abused. Good for you for saying no. There’s nothing impressive about projecting “I’m proud because I work for my boss all day long!”
If you want to leave that interviewer with the right impression about your dedication to your work, try this:
How to Say It
“I’ll do all the work necessary to help my company be successful while I’m at work. I’m proud of that.”
It’s up to your boss to give you the right work to do, and it’s up to your boss to define, organize, and manage your work load during work hours to ensure the company’s success.
Do you respond to work e-mails in the evening? How much of an employee’s time does an employer own?