You Should Be Using an Email Signature That Protects Your Time
“I do not respond to emails on weekends. If this is an emergency, please call my mobile. If you do not have my mobile number, then you do not have a weekend emergency.”
That was one professor’s bold out-of-office reply, and when it was discovered by the internet, it spurred a lively conversation about boundaries, office hours, and email practices. Stephana Cherak, a graduate student at the University of Calgary whose tweet sparked the discussion, later wrote a piece in the scientific publication Nature about the conversation in response to her viral tweet. The debate focused on the question of whether more people should employ either out-of-office auto-responses or disclaimers below their signature in outgoing emails that indicate boundaries about email and time management and serve to reassure the recipient that they need only respond on their own time.
Writer Anne Helen Petersen also recently mentioned the boundary-setting tool on Twitter: “A great, thoughtful, email signature on the message I just read while excavating my cave of an inbox: My working day may not be your working day. Please don’t feel obliged to reply to this e-mail outside of your normal working hours.”
These two disclaimers take slightly different tones that aim to accomplish the same thing: informing an email recipient that the sender uses particular hours of the day to tackle their email, and that might not match up with yours.
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It’s a device I think more of us should use in our own emails. Americans already work longer hours than any other developed country in the world while 2017 research shows that academics, specifically, work an average of 57 hours a week. Setting up an email disclaimer noting the specific hours that you spend emailing does everyone a favor: It provides some sort of comfort to the recipient that the lack of an immediate response isn’t personal and can possibly ease their own anxiety about responding right…