You may want to chime in on chat or Slack at any time of the day, like late at night. Choose not to, and lead a better life, build a better company.

The Lure

We’re on our computers a lot. We take our company laptops home where we’re doing random side projects and life management on it. We use this same computer during the day at work, so wwe’re exposed at home to apps from work, like Slack. Our phones are the same way, conveniently loaded with Slack, video conferencing software, and work email accounts. The lure is present.

We may see that we have an unread Slack mention. That unread number… oooohh, so enticing. It’s hard to keep our Pavlovian predisposition to jump on these messages in check. Especially now, when we’re out of work, taking a breath, and have a spare second.

In fact, it could be even more compelling because, you know what, we’ve been out of town, and we’re way behind. We deserve to read these notes. No, others deserve us reading and responding to these notes. They’ve probably been waiting for days for my response. We owe it to them.

Our Example

Our example matters and not just to us. We need to show the ability to disconnect. There is rarely a message that can’t wait until the next day, so leave it until then.

When we connect to Slack, email, or other company comms, we pressure others to do the same. When someone sees our Slack message that comes in at 7pm, 11:30pm, or 2am, they will wonder if they should be giving people the same 247 attention and help that we are, or seem to be. Everyone else wants to be a team player too. To dissuade others from such potential pressures, we may say, “leave your work at work, and go home”, but our words will be hollow unless we do it. We may say, “I don’t have to be on. I’m just on because I want to be.” That may be true, but when we are on way after core hours, we are still steering our culture in a direction where that’s first acceptable, then embraced, then expected. We can encourage a culture of false heroism and showmanship. We can encourage a culture of always-on availability, robbing ourselves and others of needed time to rejuvenate and experience other aspects of life.

Studious Avoidance

We can do better. We can train ourselves to focus on the task or the people at hand. If we’re at home, those are our at-home people. We might still have Slack notifications on our phone. We can train ourselves to not read them until we appropriately return to work. Sure, some people are legitimately on call for needs like operations, but this is the exception.

We can close Slack on our computers. We can close out our work profile in our browsers. We can leave unread messages. If we happen to see a message that needs our attention – later – we can re-mark it as unread or write a note to ourself to respond when back at work. If we see that unread, red icon indicating 3 new messages, we can simply and quickly close the app and smile for our choice.

People need time to recover and be away. Work is a subset of life. In our own commitment to work, we need to remember the impression we make on others and be respectful.

What are the ways you feel pulled back into work after hours? And how do you feel when someone else is chatting it up on Slack in the wee hours of the morning?