Career Center Blog

August 17, 2009

The Sunday night e-mail check


On Sunday, a source I hadn't been able to reach during the workweek for an article I'm writing about labor laws and work/life balance called. She'd just picked up my voice message and was calling from her vacation in the San Juans.

Amused by the irony, I posted as much on Twitter:

"Just interviewed a work/life balance advocate. On a Sunday. She called me from her vacation."

Seven people retweeted my post within an hour or so, which is a lot for my little corner of the Twitterverse, especially for a weekend. Among their comments:


"Can't decide if this is funny or sad!"

"Hey. She's ON vacation, right? :) That's something."

What my Twitter pals and I failed to acknowledge was that we, too, were online on a gorgeous Sunday. I don't know what their excuses were, but I was in my office trying to squeeze in a little research for the article in question when my source called.

I'm not convinced that this is a case of the work/life balance blogger having no balance though. For many years, I've been a fan of checking my e-mail and upcoming week's to-do list on Sunday afternoon or evening, just so I know what Monday has in store for me. (By the time Sunday night rolls around, I often can't remember what I promised myself and my clients I'd do on Monday morning.) In yesterday's case, I knew I had such a busy week ahead that slipping in a couple hours of research on a sunny Sunday seemed less painful than having to work 11 or 12 hours on Monday.

I'm certainly not the only one who does the Sunday night work prep or e-mail check. I've known dozens of colleagues over the years -- staffers and freelancers alike -- who do the same. And last summer, readers of this blog had a lively discussion on the pros and cons of checking work messages and sneaking in a little work during weekends and vacations.

In the past month, a number of employees have told me that checking e-mail and voice mail after hours is just par for the course in today's needed-it-three-days-ago work world. Right or wrong, they said, if you want to keep up -- heck, if you want to keep your job at all these days -- you'll stay on top of work correspondence and developments, even during your downtime.

Readers, what do you think about the Sunday evening e-mail check? Are you for or against it?

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide." E-mail Michelle at

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I think it's unfortunate that we define work and leisure so rigidly. I find more "balance" if I do a bit of both most days. In face, ironically I wrote a post about working on vacation just this morning:

I think the daily schedule of leisure and work outlined in that article is much more realistic for "balance" it's just not what companies are willing to allow, yet.

Won't it be nice when it's the norm...not the exception.

I don't have the internet at home and refuse to even check my personal email on the weekends. Abnormal or not it's the life style I choose, and I haven't had it hurt my career or relationships yet. I think if I work disciplined at work and return people's emails promptly (which overworked folks often don't do.. even if they are checking them all weekend/vacay) then that's enough for my peace of mind/my enginnering job.

Well, I am WAAY guilty of this.

At the time, it always seems like doing the work now will stave off some future crisis or somethng, but I think it is more about me and my nature than the work.

Of course, I am writing this in my office, while (allegedly) working.

No boundary issues here!

Dear SN,
I would not clone my pets because the pet would not be the same.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

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Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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