Eight hours for work, eight hours for play, eight hours for sleep—in free Americay! —Old labor song
Back in 2015 I wrote here that “the email auto-reply is a political act,” explaining that: “When it comes to … weekends or weeks away, each of us must cultivate his or her own sense of confidence—that we’re worth waiting a week for, that the work will be there when we return, that we deserve time away because we are not 24-hour, seven-day-a-week air traffic controllers or 911 operators.”
That was seven years ago, and pre-pandemic. After two consecutive years of being screen-faced round the clock—first in sheer panic, then operational necessity and finally bovine habit—at least one communication exec I know is establishing some serious email boundaries.
This isn’t an associate manager of community relations, either. This is a chief communication officer at a well-known institution, putting an auto-reply on his daily email that says:
I regularly check and reply to work emails between 8 AM and 6 PM Eastern time on weekdays. While I sometimes read incoming mail after hours and on weekends, I rarely reply during those times, in order to give myself and others a break.
So right now my Inbox is paused. I’ll read your message and reply to it as needed during working hours.
In the event of a real emergency, please contact me by phone or text.
My favorite line is “to give myself and others a break.” Imagine how happy that made this person’s direct reports feel! And contemplate the example this sets, for so many others around the institution, including other top brass. If this place isn’t careful, it could become a sane place to work.
You could never get away with that, you say?
Why not? I ask.
The Great Resignation doesn’t have to be the whole story of the lingering aftermath of COVID. Because what good does it do, resigning from one mad organization just to join up with another? How about The Great Reassertion—claiming your right to work a sane schedule where you already work and have established your value, and daring someone, in this labor market, to make something of it.