do you feel tele-pressure when you work from home?

The flexibility of working from home is usually a boon for workers … but regular work-from-home’ers know that this flexibility comes with a dark side too: “tele-pressure,” or the urge to respond to emails, texts, and voicemails as fast as you can, so that you appear connected and responsive. That leads to people doing things like interrupting evenings and weekends to respond to emails that aren’t actually urgent, or even neglecting their biggest priorities during the workday itself in order to remain continuously responsive to a never-ending stream of emails and other communications. Over time, it can lead to workers being less productive, burned out, and even experiencing health and sleep problems.

“Employees pick up on both subtle and not-so-subtle cues in the work environment that imply that fast response times are needed to be perceived as productive workers,” says Larissa Barber, a psychology professor at NIU and lead author of a new study on tele-pressure. “This may leave employees feeling like they technically have the option of not being continuously accessible, but that unplugging—even for short periods of time—may be damaging to their careers.”

So what can you do if you’re feeling pressure to show at all times that you’re responsive and productive? These six steps may help:

* Turn off new message notifications on your phone and email so that you’re not getting distracted by the constant “answer me!” ding of every new message. Instead, check your messages several times throughout the day when you’re at a good breaking point in the rest of your work.

* Schedule work blocks for yourself, several-hour chunks of time where you’ll work distraction-free on your biggest priorities, and consciously choose to stay out of your email during those periods.

* Don’t assume that your manager expects instant responses to every email. Plenty of managers send emails in the evening or over the weekend but don’t expect responses until normal work hours. If you’re in doubt, ask your manager:“Hey, I’m assuming that it’s fine for me to wait to reply to emails sent over the weekend until I’m back at work on Monday, unless it’s an emergency. Let me know if that’s not the case.”

* Resolve to disconnect from work email altogether once your work day is over. Not every field allows this – there are some jobs that truly require you to be available and responsive at all times – but the majority don’t. Unless your job explicitly requires you to be constantly connected, try simply not checking your email over the weekend for one week’s worth of evenings and see what happens. If everything seems to go fine, try it for a second week and see what happens. Still fine? That’s probably a sign that you can truly disconnect going forward – and should.

* Remind yourself that if you don’t get an answer within a few hours every time you query a colleague, you don’t assume that person is slacking off; you assume they’re busy with something else. The same is likely true of how your colleagues think of you – and that’s doubly true if you have an established track record of getting back to people and doing good work.

* If you’re a manager, do your part to combat tele-pressure on your team by (a) creating norms around response time that make it clear instant responses aren’t expected unless something is truly urgent, (b) convey specific, non-urgent timelines in your emails when you can (such as “would you let me know by Thursday?”), and (c) explicitly telling people that you don’t want them to feel pressured to prioritize email above other work or disconnecting at night and on weekends.

{ 70 comments… read them below }

  1. Adam*

    One thing I’ve been curious about people who tele-work from home: do you feel like you’re always on the clock? Or is it easy to say your work day is done at such-and-such a time and you can step away from it?

    1. ali*

      I have worked from home 3 days a week since March of 2012. At first it was really hard to stop working, but I eventually did some of the things Alison suggests in her article – specifically not checking email or voicemail in the evenings or on weekends. It made it a lot easier to say “ok, I’m stopping at x time” (usually x time falls between 5 & 6). I also make sure I start at a certain time each day. Just like I would if I were in the office. If I take lunch, I work longer that day. I also do not have my work email sent to my personal smartphone, so I don’t get notifications for it and can’t even check it from my phone.

      But when I’m done, I’m done. I work on a laptop, so I physically close it and do not open it again until the next morning (unless for some reason, my manager texts me with an emergency, but we have set up only very specific instances where he does that. and he’s only ever needed to do it once.)

    2. Ash (the other one)*

      At my office, when we’re working from home, we put on our calendars the times we are working and the number to call to reach us. I don’t feel guilty shutting off after the time that’s noted on my calendar. I think this system generally works well (and provides flexibility too — we are very family friendly so there are no qualms if someone notes they will be offline 3-4 to pick up their kid from school but back on at 6)…

    3. Sascha*

      I’ve never really had a problem disconnecting from work at the end of the day, so I don’t feel like I’m on the clock. Also, I specifically told my bosses (and remind them often) that they can call or text me if there is a true emergency – so the onus is on them.

      1. The IT Manager*

        +1 I’m sure it’s job dependent and individual dependent, but I have never had a problem disconnecting at the end of the day and I have no problem whether I was in the office or working from home. I have a work laptop on the desk that I only use when I am working. I do occassional go into my home office in the evening to work on a personal laptop on a different desk, but my back is to the my work desk and I am never tempted to log in.

        I have something of an opposite problem. When things are crazy I sometimes think I should do some extra work after hours to try to catch up. Almost always, though, once I’ve gotten home (if I was in the office) and had dinner, I’m too mentally drained to make that effort to do more work. I’ve now pretty much accepted that once I shut down for the day, I am not going back to it. If I need to finish something that night, I know I just need to keep working until its done.

        1. Sascha*

          That is how I am during emergencies. We’ve recently had some at work, and I did put in overtime for about 2 weeks, but after working about 14 days straight, I just couldn’t do it anymore. We still have a lot of backlog but in order to preserve my sanity and health, I have to disconnect. I am more efficient and productive when I’m rested than trying to put in extra hours to get stuff done – the productivity tapers off the longer I keep up working overtime.

          1. The IT Manager*

            I’ve also found that if I put in a good bit of OT early in the week, I am actually pretty useless by Thursday or Friday during the day. It’s like I have a net amount of work I can do during the week and once I hit that limit, I’m done.

            1. ace*

              I have the same issue, or if I work a lot over the weekend I lose steam by the middle of the week. I call it my work hangover.

        2. MaryMary*

          I have discovered that I absolutely hate logging back in night. I’d rather stay late (or work late, if I’m at home) than take a break and start back up again. I know a lot of people who work until 4 or 5, take a break, and log back in at 9 or 10. Particularly for people with family committments, I understand that it works it for them. But I’d rather work continuously until 8 and be done for the day. Otherwise I really do feel like I’m working all the time, even if the net hours worked is the same.

        3. Ama*

          During my busiest time of year, I do check email on the weekends (although I try to limit it to once or twice a day). But it’s only because the issues that come up at that particular time are actually easier for me to handle if I can either respond right away (if it’s an urgent but easily resolved issue) or have 24-48 hours to think about (if it’s a larger issue) rather than arriving Monday morning and having a couple dozen urgent emails I’m not prepared for.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      When I’m working from home (about 30% of the time), I have a work computer that I shut down at my normal quitting time. And my cell phone does not notify me of work emails, although I do have that account set up on my phone so that I can check it. If I’m not at my computer, I’m not working.

      Now, certain co-workers know they can call me or email my personal address after hours if they really NEED help with something, but they have never abused it.

    5. Melissa*

      For me, I definitely do not feel like I am always on the clock. It’s relatively easy for me to step away from the computer at 5 or 6 pm and transition myself into personal life mode. But…that’s hard-won: 6 years of battling the constant guilt of not working around the clock in graduate school. I finally realized that if I don’t take personal time that I’ll just be frustrated, angry, and burned out – and thus not productive.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I’m literally on the clock when I work from home because I’m hourly. When I’m finished, I clock out, shut my computer off and put it away. I’m not really needed after quitting time, so it’s not a big thing.

      1. Sabrina*

        Same here. I don’t have my phone set up for work email, and see no reason to. I don’t think my boss even has my number, so no texts.

    7. katamia*

      I’ve been working from home for a year and a half, and I’ve always felt I could step away from it when I had to. Actually, that’s one reason I really love working from home–as long as I make my deadline, it doesn’t matter whether I’m at my desk at 9am (never, extreme owl here) or whether I finish my work at 3pm or 3am. But if I remember suddenly that I wanted to go to the grocery store or even watch a movie or read a book for awhile, I could just stop working and go. I’ve never had an issue with making my deadlines, and I love being able to structure my time in a way that works best for me.

      Although I was just offered a job in an office earlier today and I’ll probably wind up taking it unless we can’t come to an agreement on salary, so my days of freedom might be coming to an end soon–eep.

    8. Andy*

      I’m a full time WFH employee. When my work day ends its done and I don’t think about it. It helps I have a dedicated room as my office, so when I leave for the day I dont come back to that room.

    9. catsAreCool*

      I have regular hours that I work. Sometimes I work a little over the required hours, but except for that, I don’t check my e-mail, etc. outside of work hours. I think I work better when I have some non-work time. I try to put in a good strong effort during work hours, then stop. If I’m right in the middle of something that I don’t want to stop, or if I feel like I didn’t accomplish much that day, I may work later.

      I do feel obliged to reply to every IM as soon as I can. I try to answer e-mails in a reasonable amount of time. Both of these are in work hours, though.

    10. HarryV*

      It depends. I’ve been a permanent homeworker since 2007 and my time checking email is based on how busy I am. I work at a global company so if I can check and shoot off an email before I go to bed so someone can pick up the matter by the time I sign on the next day, I will do so. I stopped carrying a blackberry as it caused me to be consciously looking at work email. Now I have a smart phone and only forward phone calls to my personal phone. Previously, I used my work smart phone as my personal phone so that was a big no no as it tempted me to check my mail even though I didn’t have to.

    11. Patricia*

      I begin my at home work day really early in the morning (5:30 am) because that is a great block of time to work on major projects without email, phone calls, etc. I usually stop working around 2:30 pm, but leave my phone and computer on until around 5 pm. (I am available if I am needed.). I turn the ringer off on the phone and shut down the computer at dinner time and rarely look at it after that. On the weekend, I will look at email (on my phone) once or twice, but make a habit of not responding until Monday. If you respond during off hours, people expect that. I think by only responding during “normal work hours” I am sending a clear message. It works for me.

  2. Judy*

    I once worked at a different location from my manager, I was the only one not within eyesight of his desk. He asked me to change my IM timeout to 5 minutes so that he could tell when I was at my desk.

    He was not my favorite manager.

    1. Ash (the other one)*

      Eww. I could not deal with this… does he check your desk at work every 5 minutes to make sure you haven’t gotten up to get a coffee or use the bathroom, too?

      1. Jen*

        I had a temp assignment once at a place that the manager there timed your bathroom breaks (you had to walk by his desk to get to them), not to mention your lunch. (Note this was in the days before IM.) And if you were gone more than 5 minutes he wanted to know why. Needless to say I quit after two days.

    2. AMG*

      I’m not sure I would have done it. Excuse me boss, but my stomach is upset. I may be in the bathroom longer than 5 minutes. Just wanted you to know. Or God forbid you are on a call and not touching your computer.

      1. the gold digger*

        I actually had a boss once – for a contract, temp job – who would get livid when she called and I was not at my desk. Apparently, being human and having needs was not acceptable.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I once managed a manager and learned that she’d gotten angry with a remote worker for not answering when she called her. The remote worker explained she’d been in the bathroom, and the manager told her to IM her before going to the bathroom in the future, so she’d know she was unreachable.

          I explained to this manager that she couldn’t do that and why, and to this day I have the impression that she thought I was being a pushover.

          1. Melissa*

            I wonder if these people ever turn around and put themselves in that position before making ridiculous requests, i.e., “If I were the remote worker myself, would I want to message my boss every time I got up to go to the bathroom, get coffee, take a short break, stretch, etc.?” Except that a lot of times they probably don’t care.

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            Every time I think I’ve seen it all, there’s a story like this and I realize that a) I haven’t seen it all, and b) thank Cthulhu I haven’t actually seen it all.

          3. Goldie*

            Now this is a perfect case of “be careful what you ask for, you might get it”. I’d love to see her IM clogged with bathroom notifications from her multiple remote employees.

            Seriously, that’s crazy talk. I’d update my resume on the same day if I were told that by my manager.

          4. HarryV*

            A reasonable manager would’ve left a v/m and asked them to call back. I’ve fired someone once because my suspicions were confirmed that this employee was not signed on or checking v/m for days after I left one asking them to call me back and it was urgent.

      2. ali*

        I have been known to take my laptop into the bathroom with me to insure I don’t time out and look idle. But I don’t bother with that anymore because my boss is not psycho.

    3. Sparrow*

      Ugh. Sometimes a co-worker will stop by my desk to discuss an issue which may take more than 5 minutes. If I’m not actively using my computer at that time, the IM would time out. Sorry you had to deal with this guy.

    4. Clever Name*

      At my last job I worked from home one day when we had a snow storm and I had a lot to do, so I didn’t especially want to spend 4 hours of my day fighting snow traffic. My boss called me several times, and I’m sure he did it to make sure I was actually working. I was very annoyed. Especially since he was known to disappear and be unreachable for hours at a time, causing work to come to a screeching halt because he insisted on signing off on everything.

      1. TNTT*

        Hm I wonder if I know you – I had this overbearing boss who refused to believe that anyone could possibly get work done at home. Then, on his stay-home days he was Very Busy With Work. Imagine that.

        1. Clever Name*

          Heh. In my boss’ case, I think he assumed that everyone was like him and would try to avoid doing anything but the bare minimum. We all knew that when he was “working from home” he was actually screwing around (at the mall, going to the movies, just hanging out). More than once we caught him in a lie about where he was.

    5. Iro*

      This happened to me too! We had two locations that this department was located (different states). I was the only one on this team located in the other State, and it ended up being a terrible situation. I one time put my IM on “do not disturb” which blocks messages, something we were all given the go ahead to do when working on certain projects. Within seconds of changing my status (I think she had a tag on me that made a sound or something) my manager called me and told me that I had to change my status. I told her I was working on the X project, and so really couldn’t be messaged by others until 2pm, but she wouldn’t relent. “I need you on a different status so I can tell you are working. It’s fine for *Josh and *Jen to be on do not disturb because they are here but you can ‘t use that status.”

      Of course I was interrupted frequently when it came time to be my turn on this project, but I still was held to the same time limits as everyone else. It was a truly messed up situation.

  3. Ash (the other one)*

    Absolutely. I telework when I either have something I need to focus on or when conditions outside are awful. With the former I get frustrated since the whole purpose of working from home is to focus. I have found the solution in putting an out of office alert up that says I am writing and if truly urgent to call me. This works well enough, but there is still some guilt in there about not being available.

  4. AnotherHRPro*

    I used to work in a remote office in a different time zone and was traveling frequently. That experience trained me to always check e-mail. When I got up in the morning I was already 3 hours behind HQ so I was already getting work messages. I had clients that were another 3 hours behind me, so I tended to check messages throughout the night. I’m no longer in that type of role, but it has become a hard habit to break.

    Has anyone gone from a telework position to a normal office one and had trouble “disconnecting” during off hours?

    1. Cautionary tail*

      Not officially telework but I had part of my company that started at 6:30AM US east coast time and I needed to support them. People would begin working across the time zones and I would have to support my west coast team till they finished at 8PM (my 11PM). I checked my email first thing in the morning, drove to work, worked a normal day on email and phone in my office, drove home, and popped up my email/mobile phone again. I began to think in different time zones and when I switched companies it was difficult to turn this off.

      Even though I wasn’t labeled a teleworker, I supported people across the whole US from both home and office, so it is probably as close to a teleworker as you can get.

    2. Beezus*

      It wasn’t telework, but I had a job that required significant overtime, and working with suppliers and another office that were 13-14 hours off our time. I did a lot of after-hours work from home, and a lot of late night conference calls/IM convos/email exchanges with people on the other side of the world late at night. I have another job now with no overtime needed really, and everyone I work with is within an hour of my local time. I can honestly work straight 8-5, and I have the hardest time keeping those hours. I’m currently working 7:30-5:30 most days, I just can’t seem to shave that one last daily hour out.

  5. C Average*


    I have an office and am there almost all the time, but my team has very, very liberal work-from-home policies. (For example, last week I was working on the final draft of a high-profile writing project and I asked to work from home so that I could read my document out loud so as to catch any errors in flow. No one batted an eye. My teammates routinely take a day or two at home when they need to focus on a specific creative project and don’t find the open-plan atmosphere conducive to encounters with the Muse.)

    But I am on call pretty much literally all the time, and often find myself responding to stuff that I know could wait because, hey, look at me being all responsive and stuff.

    It is so ingrained that I really don’t think it’s a source of stress at this point. It’s just my version of “normal.”

    I have a peer who deals with everything that requires a really good creative eye (which she has and I don’t). I deal with everything that requires an immediate answer (because I really don’t mind being on call and I kind of thrive on adrenaline and a little pressure). We joke that she is the features editor and I am the news desk.

    I’ve had to learn to unplug a bit at home, not because I want to but because my family needs to actually see that they’re a priority. But I look at my work email compulsively and probably always will.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I guess to me it’s not “tele-pressure” any more than there’s “get your work done” pressure. If I’m working at home, it’s my obligation not to make things harder on the people who are working at the office, so I respond at the yell-into-my-doorway speed whether I’m there or not. I guess there are some emails that I don’t feel obliged to respond to immediately, but being home doesn’t change that for me; most of them I do feel I should respond to quickly, so that’s also the same wherever I am.

  6. Sascha*

    I felt the pressure when I had my work email connected to my personal phone, even when I turned off notifications, I still had that temptation to check because it was simply there. Now I have removed that, and I got a tablet issued from my department with work email on it. I leave that tablet off when I’m not working and I keep it stored in my work backpack, out of sight. My managers know if it’s truly an emergency, they can call or text my personal phone. But if the tablet’s off, I don’t get email, and I don’t feel the pressure. It also helps me mentally that I haven’t incorporated work into my personal devices – personal phone is personal, and work tablet is work.

  7. mess*

    I work in an office 50+ hours a week and I have major telepressure issues – don’t think this is exclusive to those who work from home. The expectation at my company is that you will be responsive all the time. My boss praised someone in a big meeting for responding to his emails over the weekend and told me when I got promoted to director that the CEO could now “text or call me 24-7.”

  8. JC*

    My employer only very recently allowed occasional telework, and there is definitely “tele-pressure” to demonstrate you’re available while teleworking. I think in my workplace, though, Allison’s tips to not answer every email ASAP while teleworking just wouldn’t fly (during work hours, not responding after work hours is fine). If people in your workplace are nervous or reluctant about teleworkers, you unfortunately do need to be more responsive at home than you are in the office.

  9. Bend & Snap*

    I work from home three days a week and definitely feel this. There are days where I realize it’s been hours since I’ve stood up.

    it’s relatively easy to end my workday because I either get the kiddo or her dad brings her home, so that’s a logical stopping point.

    And I have two phones, one work and one personal, so it’s easy to stick the work phone in a drawer and not look at it overnight.

  10. Anon369*

    This is timely – I have managers who are conceptually OK with teleworking, but they don’t reach out to me as casually as when I am in the office. How have others addressed what I’ll call “the lack of a water cooler”? I encourage my team and my manager to reach out during impromptu discussions, but I miss a lot of discussions that I’d love to be part of. (and they’re always by a phone – I think it’s out of sight, out of mind).

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I PACK my two days in the office with in-person meetings, coffees and drive-by chitchat so I’m not out of sight, out of mind. I don’t get a lot done during those days but I have yet to be left out of a project because I’m mostly remote.

    2. LMN*

      Thinking of gchat/im/whatever as the analog to stopping by someone’s desk to chat is important; it’s the remote version of tapping someone on the shoulder for a quick discussion. Video conferencing can help as well. I know some people who use slack ( for group chatting throughout the day.

      Phone calls are hard to negotiate for group meetings and not great for keeping a remote person in the loop in my experience.

        1. LMN*

          I doubt remote working can happen, or at least work well, if people aren’t willing to change some ways that they currently communicate. The onus can’t rest entirely on the remote worker(s).

    3. AnotherFed*

      This is an interesting question – I’m usually on the other side of this, where most of my team has job duties that make it hard to telework more than for preplanned special situations. Every once in a while we’ll have someone transfer in who wants to or is already used to teleworking regularly. Some roles can make it work, but the best people I’ve seen already had a track record of good work, were available on IM (and were responsive), and took on a lot of the work in starting conversations. The last thing was particularly key, because if you were already talking to them about X, you’d find yourself remembering to summarize the discussion about Y and Z, too.

  11. The IT Manager*

    …consciously choose to stay out of your email during those periods

    Can you do this? I used to think of myself as a deep thinker, but in recent years I have gotten into the terrible “multi-task” habit. I do want to stop because I feel strongly that multi-tasking is just doing two things at the same time poorly, but my distractabilility – especially by electronics – is high.

    When I am working on something I usually can’t stay out of my email. That is where nearly all the info on my project is stored except for actual project artifacts. I get distracted by new emails that come and I can’t help but seeing.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      If you use Outlook you can turn your email off. I do this sometimes if I really need to concentrate, along with a work block on my calendar.

    2. Melissa*

      If you are working on something that you know is stored mostly in email, could you set aside some time to download all or most of the pertinent information into a separate document that you then store on your computer? You could then at least minimize the amount of time that you see your inbox and are distracted by new emails.

    3. Workfromhome*

      I have worked remotely in past jobs and in my current role for over 7 years. Staying out of email is not difficult at all. MS Outlook has a “work offline” button. No new emails come in. Any emails you send sit in the outbox until you connect back up. You still have access to most if not all your email. I often go offline and turn the data feed off on my phone when I need to concentrate for an hour or 2. Email is not “instant Messaging”.

      Being instantly responsive to emails and responding to emails off hours does more harm than good. It makes what is actually exceptional service the norm. It creates unrealistic expectations. Its somewhat like the annoying salesperson at the retail store that makes you wait to pay for your purchase while they answer the phone. The person or task directly in front of you deserves your first attention.

      As for after hours I rarely check email after 6pm and have it all forwarded to a separate box when I am on vacation. Working hours should be focused on work and non work hours are mine to do as I please. If I do have occasion to do some work that requires a response after normal hours I put a delivery delay on the email for the next morning. Its all about setting reasonable expectations. If there is some rare instance where after hours work and response is needed (rather than desired) then it will certainly stand out that I went above and beyond rather than being punished for not responding within 15 minutes at 10 PM at night.

      Working from home for me tends to be much more productive than being interrupted constantly with distractions in an office environment. Those are the occasions where you need to work after hours because there are so many distractions you can’t focus on completing critical tasks.

      1. HepHep*

        This is great advice. I work remotely 100% , and I have tried to get in the habit of asking myself if I’m setting the precedent for a reasonable expectation. I had to learn the hard way on that one. I was finding myself run into the ground always trying to go above and beyond. Knowing where the right boundaries are for me personally was an important step towards managing my time effectively, which definitely seems to make a difference in my time management and even mental quality of life.

  12. A Jane*

    I hated when my previous manager would work from home of Fridays. He had a somewhat insatiable need to know what was happening in the office. On a particularly busy email day, he would follow up with each incoming email “hey, did you see this email from X?” a second after it came into my inbox. I stopped the behavior by asking point blank if I should change how I’m responding to these emails. The duplicate notifications from the original requestor and himself were cramping my inbox style and also confusing the requestors. He finally got it, and let me be.

  13. AdAgencyChick*

    I’ve recently moved into a department that does more teleworking than other departments in the company. I personally prefer to keep my home my work-free castle and leave work at the office, even if that means spending more time in the office on some days. So even after this department move, I’ve continued not to give emails more than a cursory glance at home (and I check only once or twice an evening). I figure if it’s really urgent, whoever it is will text me when I don’t answer their email within five minutes. Thus far, that policy seems to work fine.

    If I had kids, I’d probably lean away from my separation-of-church-and-state policy and toward integrating work into my home life so that I could be physically at home more.

  14. MaryMary*

    Some of these ridiculous expectations on being super responsive aren’t limited to telework situations. My office has a very traditional culture, high emphasis on face time in the office. Our owner also expects that employees are very responsive to clients on the phone, and that if someone calls we’ll drop whatever we’re doing to answer the phone. We’ve had problems where someone has a detailed, time consuming (and sometimes time sensitive) project to work on, but it’s frowned upon to let calls go to voicemail. Our receptionists have been instructed to never transfer a caller to voicemail (unless the caller requests it), so there have been times where a call is transfered to 3-4 people who all happen to be away from their desk (lunch, bathroom, internal meeting) before finally finding a live person to talk to.

  15. LizNYC*

    When I worked at my former job, I was permitted to work 1, then 3 days at home. At first, my manager wanted a list of everything I’d done that day (we kept worklogs anyway, but she usually didn’t check them). After awhile, it was just accepted that I was working because, you know, my assignments got done. Did I get up to use the bathroom / change the wash / make myself lunch? Yep. But at 8:55 I logged on and at 5:05, I logged off (we weren’t ever expected to answer emails or phone calls after hours). I miss those days because I would be SO productive because there weren’t any distractions, except the ones I chose to make for myself.

  16. Cam*

    When we first started work at home 1 day a week at my company, it was a rule that we had to answer emails within half an hour of when they were sent. It made little sense to me, since these were flex days as long as we got our 8 hours in, so it was possible the person receiving the email wouldn’t see it until an hour or more after it was sent.

    It made even less sense when we were told we had to answer emails immediately. No more half hour allowance. Immediately, or our work at home status could be revoked. Our boss even told us that it didn’t matter if we were sitting in a dentist’s chair getting our teeth drilled. We HAD to answer. People obviously stopped scheduling appointments for our “flex” days after that, and they work at home days have finally been revoked for everyone at our company. No more working in pajamas. :(

  17. SLG*

    I’m curious if anyone else feels “telepressure” … at the office. I feel like I get 2 opposing messages: “Do what you need to do in order to concentrate and get your work done!” and “Props to Jim, he responds to emails so fast!”

    Have you all found any good ways to set up blocks of focus time and also not feel behind on office email, chats, etc.?

    1. mess*

      YES absolutely. I don’t know what the solution is though. We have interoffice IM too and it drives me nuts. People rarely use it for things that are critical but to me, an IM means “DROP EVERYTHING AND RESPOND NOW. People often IM you even if you have a little red box next to your name (which means you are busy/in a meeting).

  18. Vicki*

    I never felt “the urge to respond to emails, texts, and voicemails as fast as you can, so that you appear connected and responsive”. I do that regardless of whether I am in the office or working from home. Other people do it regardless of whether they are working or are at home after close of “usual” business hours.

    The pressure I’ve felt, when I work remotely, is pressure to come back to the office because I’m supposed to, because I live within 60 miles of the office, or because my manager has no clue how to “manage” people he can’t see. Telework is considered to be a perk, a treat, a special gift. 40 hours a week on site is, in contrast, a punishment. I was 0once told to stop setting my IM status to “working from home” because… well, he didn’t give a reason. It was simply “inappropriate behaviour”.

    In several cases, when my then-manager was angry or upset, for any reason, he played the “we need you in the office every day” card. Different companies, different managers. With one exception, there was no explanation, only the “we need” statement. The exception: “if everyone in the company can’t telecommute, then no one can”.

    I no longer work for these companies. We need to get over the idea that telecommuting is a privilege and move onto the idea that productive work is the only requirement.

  19. Misc*

    I work entirely from home, and I do feel like I need to always be around. But it’s not pressure from my manager/team, as there’s a really, really good culture about managing our own time. As long as the work gets done, they do not care if I’m ‘offline’ for half the day, three days in a row.

    A lot of my work is stuff I have decided needs doing, and I’m the only one who does it, so I don’t always have an objective way to measure whether I’m doing ‘enough’, and overcompensate. Plus I’m nocturnal by nature, so it’s very easy to keep working into the night. But I need to be around when other people are around, to talk to them sometimes. But either there’s stuff I’m in the middle of, or I know there will be emails from customers coming in (which is about a third of my job – so I can’t turn my emails off!), or I couldn’t concentrate during the day and wandered off for a walk or to do some gardening, and am playing catch up in the evening…

    All that means it’s very easy to spiral into ‘always working/stepping away for a moment/catching up’ and I won’t stop working ‘officially’ til midnight, and new emails from other timezones are constantly arriving, at which point I feel guilty because I still have stuff to do (but am too tired/bored to keep going),and then have to spend 3-4 hours winding down and doing personal stuff. Which means I start late the next day…

    So I’ve been trying to enforce office hours on myself (10-6ish) really strictly :D Luckily I have a kitten that determinedly wakes me up in the mornings.

    1. Misc*

      I will say that I changed my IM time out, so that I can wander off and have something to eat without feeling I need to rush back and appear active :D

  20. Allison*

    When I work from home, I “log on” when I’m in work mode and log off when I’m not. This normally means I’m “on” from mid morning to late afternoon/early evening, and I figure people can gauge from my Lync status whether I’m available or not. When I’m supposed to be “on,” I make sure not to wander away from the laptop for too long, lest people think I’m slacking.

    I will say, yesterday I worked in 2-3 hour blocks, and took a few breaks to work on digging out my car.

    Depending on the circumstances going on at work, I may “check in” in the evening or on weekends when possible to make sure nothing comes up that can’t wait until my normal work hours to be solved. Typically my job doesn’t involve people contacting me for urgent matters at all hours of the day.

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