Are teachers a slave to emails?
You are not alone if you dread opening your inbox. It is a healthy and safety issue. One click and you are neck-deep in a delirious mix of junk and the ‘urgent’. To combat this we need to adopt protocols so staff can manage their workload and protect their sanity.
That dreaded ‘ping’
This used to blind side me in the most inconvenient of moments. The most memorable of which triggered a Eureka moment once leading to a series of personal changes.
It was Sunday morning and my son had finally made it into the football team. He was sprinting to get on to a loose ball outside the penalty area and then it happened. A ‘ping’ triggered a Pavlovian response in me and I simply had to check my phone. I was addicted and had to be up to date. I reached for my phone; the message said ‘URGENT’. I clicked, opened and locked on, and then it happened.
A huge ‘cheer’ jolted me out of my virtual world and the disappointed look from my son will live with me for a long time. I had missed his first ever goal and the message was far from urgent. How many times has this happened to you and how much responsibility to schools have to protect teachers from this?
I am all for individual responsibility, but the fear of missing that email or being out of the loop drives staff to be contactable at all times. I am my own worst enemy with access to my emails through watch; phone; iPad and computer. I know I could remove the apps and live in blissful ignorance, but they will still be there and it will eat away at me.
What could schools do to help here and prevent their staff from missing important and irreplaceable moments in their lives?
Email is a useful way to communicate and share ideas. With the advent of smart technology, it has become increasingly accessible; a rise in the number of emails sent between staff has an impact on workload as well as how we communicate and develop relationships.
At its best, email is a time-saver and a useful tool for communication. At its worst, email becomes a huge distraction and burden and stops people from communicating effectively and building relationships and connections. Research suggests that it takes an average of 64 seconds to get back to work after starting to read an email.
For this reason, should schools adopt protocols for collective responsibility?
Thinking outside the Inbox!
Before sending an email, consider the following questions:
- Do I really need to send this email? How many conversations start with “Did you get my email?”
- Do I ‘have to’ send it now?
- Can I solve this issue by waiting and asking the person face to face?
- Does every single member of staff need to read it? (many schools have full staff buttons)
Having reflected on the need to send an email, some schools have adopted an email window:
- No emails should be sent between the hours of 7PM and 7AM from Mon – Thurs.
- No emails should be sent after 5pm on a Friday.
- This email window could apply in term time and during holiday periods.
Working outside the window: it is still possible to work on emails outside of this window for teachers who wish to and this fits with their working life. Teachers should always consider the ‘before sending an email’ questions first. The following strategies will allow staff to work in this way:
- Compose an email.
- Click the X in the top right-hand corner.
- The email will be stored in your drafts and can be sent from this place in the morning.
- Alternatively set up “Delay – send” on your account and most email providers have this facility. This allows scheduling days in advance.
If schools adopt these protocols, teachers will no longer have to worry about missing out on vital moments; this behaviour will go a small way to ensuring that work-life balance is restored. Take a look at ‘Top 10 Learning Points for Improving Email Strategies’ and read this excellent research paper prepared for Acas by Dr Emma Russell.