Tired of getting after-hours work email? 

CPA firms, companies, and their employees are all dealing with the benefits and drawbacks of increased connectivity. 
by Samiha Khanna 

After-hours work emailIt’s time to confront that creep from your job. Not a person, mind you, but the actual, digital creep of your work—sneaking its way to the dinner table at night and in bed before you even get up every morning.

According to a 2014 Gallup survey of more than 3,800 people, just over a third (36%) said they frequently checked work email after business hours. A similar proportion of respondents (33%) said they were expected to keep tabs on messages after working hours. Men were more likely to check their work email after hours, as were Millennials.

But how do young CPAs feel about checking email after-hours?

“Given the fact that my company does pay for me to have the ability to access to my email on my smartphone, I believe they expect me to be available in an emergency or in order not to delay a project or task, especially since we operate globally,” said Owen Wyss, CPA, 34, a business controller with Sandvik Hyperion in Columbus, Ohio. “Taking a few minutes when sitting down in the evening to relax, or when I first wake up, I can easily file emails and delete spam. This makes me at least feel more efficient during precious office hours.”

For Wyss, there is no downside to keeping tabs on business so long as he is considerate of family and others while doing it. Not everyone feels that way, though.

A study published in February in the Academy of Management Journal found that more often than not, employees got angry when they received a message after work hours.

Sometimes it can be hard for young CPAs to discern what supervisors expect of them.

“At work, they would probably say we’re not obligated to check emails outside of normal business hours, but it’s difficult to know what to do if you are getting those messages at night,” said David Almonte, CPA, CGMA, 28, a senior accountant with LGC+D LLP in Providence, R. I., who said he even checked work email on his honeymoon. “With constant access to media and information (especially due to Facebook and Twitter), clients want answers right away, and it may not matter if we are on vacation or we are home with our families.”

Almonte is weaning himself off the Pavlovian “ding” that signals new work mail. His wife is enforcing the new rule, he said.

In the end, the after-hours email issue often depends on the attitudes of individual employees and where they draw the line. But it’s an issue that will be around for the foreseeable future.

“The traditional work day in the corporate world is eroding,” said Carlos Martinez, CPA, 35, audit manager at Haskell & White LLP in San Diego. “Every day, our personal commitments and work life are more intertwined so the only way to make the ‘magic’ happen is to be continuously plugged in. But I never check email at the dinner table—sorry, boss.”

Staying plugged in

Here’s how other young CPAs address the issue of after-hours work email.

Megan Lausten, CPA, 30
Senior associate, Heinfeld, Meech, & Co. P.C., Flagstaff, Ariz.

“I only check my work email at night and on weekends if I am working at that time—for instance, during our busy season. As much as possible, I try to avoid allowing work tasks to invade my personal time, which includes email management. Outside of actual working hours, my manager could reach me by cellphone if it were an emergency.”

Cassidy Albarado, CPA, 30
Partner, Singleton, Kellner, Bolding, Avant & Albarado LLC, Lafayette, La.

“I do check my email after hours. I think clients are starting to expect it. The big downside is that sometimes it causes more stress to read something is going on and know it’s something I dread dealing with in the morning. On the other hand, if something big is happening, it’s nice to know in advance what to expect.”

Jason Deshayes, CPA, CGMA, 34
Vice president/partner, Butler and Co. CPAs, Albuquerque, N.M.

“I used to justify it as being responsive to my clients and others. Instead, it created an expectation that I was always available, and some clients took advantage of that. Plus, I can’t honestly say that answering emails or calls late added much. Very little can be done at 9 p.m. or over the weekend, so what is the point of replying? I’d rather be connected to my wife and son and have a life to go back to after work.”

Cherie Smith, CPA, 33
Audit manager, Beall Barclay & Co. PLC, Fort Smith, Ark.

“Reviewing email over the weekend or after hours helps sort what needs immediate attention. I feel like if I have one less email to read over on Monday, it will help me start my week off more productively—and who doesn’t need a good start to any Monday! An additional upside is that my clients feel that they are directly connected to me. If it’s a quick question and my response will help them continue with their business, to me it’s worth the after-hours contact.”

Samiha Khanna is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C.

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