“Teachers should not be expected to answer emails or spend hours marking schoolwork after 5 pm each day”, the Education Secretary has suggested in an attempt to solve a recruitment crisis in Britain’s schools. Perhaps we should consider a similar decision here in Australia.
Most staff in schools now access their work emails at home. Whilst many staff feel that checking work email is necessary to help them feel ‘on top’ of their work, it can encroach on their family time and reduce their ‘mental’ break from the demands of working in schools.
The addictive nature of email impacts on many people’s ability to relax. Constantly checking our email increases our time thinking about school issues and reduces our relaxation time.
Email creates a sense of urgency and interferes with the prioritising of the tasks we are doing. People often have unrealistic expectations about getting a response to their email. Many staff in schools are NOT siting in an office waiting to receive and reply to emails.
FOLS ‘Fear of Looking Slack’ and FOMO ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ are products of the urgency and connectivity that email develops.
FOLS is the fear that we will look less professional than colleagues if we are the last to reply to an email. This is worse in schools than in other organisations as teachers can be their own harshest critic.
FOMO is the fear that we will miss out on something that we should know – a meeting, an update, a professional development opprortunity or special morning tea!
One of the ways that school leaders can help address these issues is to develop an Email Protocol with staff. This was covered in a recent Happy School article. Check out Happy School here