Raising the profile and capacity of educators through personal development.

Celebrating Teachers, Supporting School Leaders

 

What We Allow We Teach

Mar 11, 2024

 Legislation in Australia has passed for employees to refuse to monitor, read or respond to contact from their employer or third party outside of working hours.

I love that this law has passed but now comes the tricky part – we have to implement it.

The right to disconnect law is really important and provides the right not to answer emails from staff, my boss or parents at night or on weekends. It is tricky though because the temptation will always be there.

This temptation is named as ‘Just because I send you an email, I don’t expect you to read it’.

As a school leader I believe it is very important for me to model disconnecting. This means having self control, being organised and learning the skill of the scheduled send

But It's Just There... On My Phone 

I am someone who has emails on my phone and yes, I tend to take a sneaky peek after hours. Why? Because when I didn’t have emails on my phone I would panic about what I might be missing or I would make up stories of worst case scenarios of who was emailing me. Weird yes, but a simple app on the phone was able to help alleviate this and allow me to read, delete or choose my next step.

If you are someone who doesn’t have emails on your phone – a bit like smoking, DON’T START! It is a really difficult habit to break once you have access to emails.

 It can be so tempting to flick back a quick email, really it can feel like a text. Think about when you are sending and why. If you make yourself so available that you answer each email with a surface level reply whilst you are at the gym, walking the dog or on the couch watching 'The Bachelor' how well constructed or considered will your reply be? Whilst it's tempting, perhaps just leave the response for when you are at work.

Self-Control:

Email self-control means Not only in the sending of emails but also in responding. It can be tempted to quickly send an email on the weekend or at 9pm at night (not me, I’m in bed with a book by then!) and think ‘they don’t have to read it’. That is the electronic equivalent to someone putting a chocolate cake in front of someone who is dieting and saying ‘you don’t have to eat it’. We are in the age of absent scrolling and checking – this includes emails. Even if you tell someone they don’t have to check, chances are they will. Do your part and don’t put the temptation in front of them. Emails have a time marked when they are sent so even if someone checks at 8am they will see what time you sent the email and think ‘Why are they sending an email at that time? I know they told me not to respond but are they just saying that or do they actually mean it?’

I had this experience recently with my boss. He sent an email at 11:50pm. Yep, 11:50pm. I didn’t see it until the next morning because I was asleep at 11:50pm. What did I do though? I panic responded. At what time? 4:30am. Yep, 4:30am. What does this tell him? I am a weirdo who gets up early and checks emails or that I am responding to an equally crazy timed email. Either way, neither of these times are acceptable.

The time you respond can send a message just as the time you email. It can show that you are reacting rather than responding and that you are not a person of your word. Right to disconnect? Yes, but I am important and therefore the rule doesn’t apply to me.

Be Organised:

As a principal, I am aware that I have more flexibility than our teachers when checking emails. I sit in front of my computer more than our teachers do because I don’t have a full-time class load. What can result is that every time I time I think of something I have the temptation to ‘send a quick email’ about it. If you are a teacher who doesn’t check their email until 3:30pm that could mean that you have 6 emails from me in addition to the parent emails, colleague emails and emails from those shops you haven’t quite got around to unsubscribing from (Zimmerman, I am looking at you!)

In a world where we have a right to disconnect this means being organised. Everything you want to email, put it in a word document and then send out a weekly memo. If it’s urgent, go and speak to the person. Sometimes a quick ‘hey, what are you thinking with x,y,z’ is a 5 minute conversation in the staff room that actually builds relationships rather than another email from the boss that could be misinterpreted and stress staff out.

Think about the response you want – is it really urgent or is it just on your mind? Again, with the idea of ‘They don’t have to read it’ is choosing how someone will feel and respond when you don’t actually know.

Be organised, send a weekly email or just go and speak to people.

Scheduled Send:

I remember when I learnt how to do a schedule send – I swear the heavens opened and there were some rays of light shining down on my laptop. What a gift!

I love the scheduled send with parents in particular. If I am in one of those moods where I have done the sneaky peek and want to respond, I write my email and schedule send to 8am the following weekday morning. It is a response that has been well crafted and arrives at a time that shows boundaries on my behalf. It also means that I have created my response and don’t have to think further about the email on my weekend or at night.

What You Allow You Teach:

One of my mum’s favourite expressions is ‘What I allow, I teach’. I am so aware of this when creating boundaries and our right to disconnect. If you want people to respect your right to disconnect, you need to model it for others. People don’t need to know your thought patterns at all times which can be mapped if you are sending emails every time you think of something. Have some self-control, be organised and become friends with the scheduled send (click on the ‘down’ arrow under the send button on your email).

We all have a part to play in enacting this wonderful rule and ensuring we all have a ‘right to disconnect’.

 

 

 

Subscribe to our blog

 

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.