When is it okay to send email? Interesting new research shows attempts to address work/life balance by imposing emails curfews may be missing the mark.

Out-of-hours email bans could be doing workers more harm than good […] with the measures reportedly inducing stress rather than easing it.

Institute of Leadership & Management

I’m not surprised. A one-size-fits-all approach never fits everyone. In a world where people increasingly seek mastery and autonomy, a world of compassionate and flexible leadership, such moves only diminish the individual’s autonomy.

Just this weekend I found myself writing an email, because it was top of mind. I then sat for ten minutes wrangling over whether I should send it immediately or remember to do it Monday morning.

When is it okay to send email

So how can we do this better, while acknowledging a person’s right to disconnect after work?

Design your alliance

The answer for me is clear, and it’s a skill straight out of the coach’s playbook – talk about it within your team and agree together how you will work. In short, design your alliance around how you work with email. Acknowledge the different preferences and agree expectations.

Most important is that the alliance is shown to be honored – or trust is lost. The alliance can of course be re-designed, after further conversation and reflecting on experience.

Be a good coach

Designing your alliance, or contracting, is a crucial coaching skill. And here’s a great place to practice it. Why? Because coaching is a key behavior of successful leaders.

Google’s Project Oxygen ranked ‘be a good coach’ at the top of their 10 behaviors of Google’s best managers.

So next time you’re thinking of sending that late night email, pause and remember what your team agreed. If you haven’t had that conversation yet, consider what may induce least stress for the receiver.

And what about my weekend email? I’ll be honest – I only recently discovered GMail’s schedule send feature. That resolved my anxiety and I queued my email there and then, happy knowing I wouldn’t forget to send it on Monday.

Join the conversation


What are your policies on sending emails?

My request – will you talk with your team, today, and ask what their expectations and needs are around email hygiene? (you can say yes, no, or counter-offer).