Out of office messages are getting so detailed nowadays. I particularly like this one: “Currently working nomadically and therefore will only be checking emails at 8am, 2pm and 5pm (and only for a few minutes at a time)”.
Others prefer to shout out their availability (or lack of it): “Please note I STRICTLY only check my emails on Monday at 1-3pm and Fridays at 9-12pm”
But are these helpful messages or a plea for some time away from our phones? Gone are the days when you left the office at 5.30pm and didn’t think about work until 9am the next day. Now we are available 24/7 via email, text, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. It’s a strong person who can ignore a weekend email from the boss. You feel obliged to respond immediately (ie, look at me, I’m always available for work) or delay your response until 10pm (look how hard I work for you).
It’s worth remembering that the Working Time Regulations require most workers to have rest breaks and continuous periods of time away from work. These were introduced to protect workers’ health and safety and employers' obligations include:
- Taking all reasonable steps to ensure that each worker's average working time (including overtime) does not exceed 48 hours per week.
- Allowing workers 11 hours uninterrupted rest per day;
- Allowing workers 24 hours' uninterrupted rest per week (or 48 hours' uninterrupted rest per fortnight)
- Allowing a rest break of 20 minutes when working more than six hours per day.
There are additional protections for some workers such as young workers or those who work at night.
Perhaps a better out of office message would be: “Thank you for your email. I am currently taking my weekly rest break and will respond to your email once I have complied with the Working Time Regulations." No boss can argue with that so go on, put on your OOO and enjoy the sun.
Since having work emails on our phones and buzzing feelings in our pockets, work days have increased from 7½ hours to 9½ hours. Most of us still check email at weekends, late at night or in the pub loos.