The hidden cost of tackling tasks after hours

23032863_S-2-300x200Do you want to be a creative, engaged and productive leader? Then resist the temptation to dash off late-night and weekend emails and texts to your staff. It’s about the message it sends to your team and it’s about your own perspective on your work, writes Maura Thomas in Harvard Business Review. She’s an international speaker and trainer on productivity.

“Being ‘always on’ hurts results,” she writes. “When employees are constantly monitoring their email after work hours — whether this is due to a fear of missing something from you, or because they are addicted to their devices — they are missing out on essential down time that brains need.

“Time away produces new ideas and fresh insights. But your employees can never disconnect when they’re always reaching for their devices to see if you’ve emailed. Creativity, inspiration, and motivation are your competitive advantage, but they are also depletable resources that need to be recharged.”

That goes for the leader as well! If you stay constantly connected, you’re missing an opportunity to get some distance from work — “distance that’s critical to the fresh perspective you need as a leader,” Thomas writes.

Here are four things you can do to help create a healthy work climate:

—  Be clear about expectations for email and other communications. If downtime is important, make sure your team knows that!

—  Tell those who have to share their brainstorms at night or on weekends to put them in draft form until morning, or program their email clients to send the emails during work hours.

—  Cultivate attention management skills as much as you emphasize time management. Multi-tasking is an enemy to attention management!

—  Talk about the benefit of presence and model that behavior by putting away your devices during meetings. Focus on the people in the room.

Thomas makes this excellent point: “Staying connected in off-hours during busy times is the sign of a high-performer. Never disconnecting is a sign of a workaholic. And there is a difference.”

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