When is it OK to ignore an email from the boss? (updated)

It’s 11.00 at night or perhaps during the holidays ... and your mobile or tablet buzzes with an incoming email...

By Richard Fraser, Editor

17 November 2014 (updated May and July 2015 below)

It’s 11.00 at night or perhaps during the holidays. You’re watching TV or getting ready for bed and your mobile or tablet buzzes with an incoming email. You take a look and it’s from your headteacher / manager. Do you: 

  • read it;
  • read it and respond; or
  • leave it until you get to work the next morning/return from leave? 

Did s/he send it with the expectation that you’d read it and respond then and there, or is s/he simply working late and not expecting you to respond until working hours/when you return from leave?  If it’s the latter, do you still feel guilty if you don’t read it and respond?  Do you ever turn your phone off?!  If you do turn it off, do you feel guilty about the emails that come in while it’s off?  Another thought – if you use your own laptop/tablet and Internet account to access work emails, does it increase your bill? 

Do let us know your thoughts… (See comments below.)

A day in the life of a primary school teacher

Update: 7 May 2015:

An avalanche of often unnecessary emails is contributing to work overload, according to Professor Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University, who advises the Government on health and well-being at work.   He is quoted in The Times and The Daily Mail as saying that companies should discourage staff from checking work emails at night, weekends and on holiday, even if that meant shutting down servers after-hours.  He said that technology such as laptops, iPads and smart watches were extending the working week: 

“Technology, rather than being an enabler, is creating more stress. 

“We have embraced technology almost too much. Emails are damaging us, we don’t control them – they control us.

“[Staff] should be discouraged from checking emails after work, when they should be spending time with their family and returning to work refreshed.

“Checking emails on holiday – that’s sick.” 

Update 27 July 2015:

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has called for work emails to be banned after working hours but is that the main problem?

Do let us know your thoughts…

 “Reduce teacher and headteacher workload and promote work-life balance for all education staff" (Election Statement 2015).

The Workload Challenge

Further information

Article in Schools Week, April 2018



In the last three weeks, (including Half Term);
I have been contacted nearly everyday on both my school Gmail account and on my own private email account, all linked to my phone which I have with me at all times, (as we all do!);

05:15 - was the time of the earliest e-mail sent.
5x emails asking for documents I had already sent,
1x email on a Sunday
6X emails in one day asking for information
1x phone call at home resulting in an hour talking through information

40 emails and counting.

Not bad you might think, however I was signed off sick three weeks ago with work related stress having brought on a bout of depression after suffering two recent bereavements, I had asked the head in an email two weeks ago to gently remind staff that I was signed off.
The emails have lessened in the last week but not stopped, I on the other hand have finally switched off vibrate and turned off the sound to my phone. Unfortunately this obviously means I have missed calls and messages from my children and husband, oops!

Is it possible to turn off the email option on the phone?

Presumably not all teachers have smartphones so they wouldn't get work emails at home, while those that do have them will...

As a head of department, I regularly send emails late into the evening as this is when I deal with some of the work I have to do and the resultant communication to colleagues. However, I have no expectation that these emails will be read until the following working day; they are sent at a time convenient to me and I assume will be read at a time convenient to the teachers involved.

I have email active on my phone so that I receive emails as they are sent, and I enjoy the forewarning this gives me of pending issues to respond to. I am, however, very comfortable in leaving replying to most emails until I am next logged into my laptop and working.

"Secret Teacher: social media makes it impossible to switch off from work"


(In response to Schools Week article https://schoolsweek.co.uk/how-should-schools-manage-out-of-hours-emails/):

@Butterflycolour (Anita Devi FRSA): "As a teacher & leader & my team know this - the norm is: I don’t work weekends or after 5pm. So no out of office emails etc"


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