Philip Sayers asks if employers have a duty of care to protect their staff against constant email traffic.
“Constant email is one of the problems of our modern age, and keeping on top of your inbox is now a challenge for many of us. It’s now well known that this can be a source of stress and a drain on productivity, so how can businesses manage this to protect their staff?
“It’s a complex issue, particularly as we know that many employees now rely on being able to deal with emails outside of normal working hours, to fit in with their flexible working arrangements. The propensity of smartphones means that we don’t always need to be in the office, which has benefits but can also make it difficult for staff to ‘switch off’. Conscientious members of staff may be particularly vulnerable to the pressure to respond immediately.
“A number of businesses are now introducing rules, stating that emails should not be sent at certain times, such as late in the evening or over weekends. In 2012, Volkswagen made the press when it stopped its Blackberry servers sending emails to employees while they were off shift. Other businesses have introduced a complete ban on internal emails among staff.
“A good starting point for any employer would be to look at how staff are using email and consider what would be workable within your business. This might involve, for example, ensuring external agencies are aware of your working hours when they can expect a response. It may be that, while senior managers need to be available out of hours, you introduce rules to protect more junior members of staff accessing work emails during evenings or weekends.
“As always, the key is that staff understand what is expected of them. This means being clear with employees and customers to manage expectations.”
For more information on this or any Employment enquiries contact Philip Sayers on 0800 328 3282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org