An overworked female office worker resting on a huge pile of files while a manager brings more to her desk.
Image: © StockPhotoPro/

Are you expecting too much from your employees?

30 Apr 2019

More than half of managers have some expectation that employees will reply to work messages while out of the office, a new report finds.

Have you ever been expected to respond to a work email while on holidays? You’re not alone.

According to a new report from Randstad US and Future Workplace, 43pc of employees feel compelled to reply to managers’ requests while on holidays.

The increase of technology in the workplace and its effect on the ‘always on’ culture has been a topic of discussion for quite some time now. However, while many experts and thought leaders simply discuss the fact that this is indeed an issue, the facts and figures show that it’s not getting any better.

The report, which surveyed more than 1,200 US employees and managers, showed that more than half of managers have some expectation that team members will reply to business messages while out of office. Additionally, 33pc of managers expect team members to always or very often reply and 20pc sometimes want to hear back while their employees are on holidays.

The pressure to stay in touch comes as no surprise when we examine the behaviour of the managers themselves. The survey showed that 87pc of managers check their emails after work with some frequency and 56pc of managers reported being unable to disconnect from work after hours.

This shows that the ‘always on’ culture is learned behaviour, much like most elements of company culture. When managers stay in the office late, respond to or send emails after hours or on holidays, it has a domino effect on employees, who feel compelled to mirror this behaviour.

This negative culture is amplified further when managers don’t clearly communicate what is expected of their employees.

The Randstad US report highlighted this communication breakdown. According to the results, while 43pc of managers’ organisations have established policies about after-hours communications, only 18pc of employees say they are aware of these policies. It’s not enough to simply have a policy in place, it’s important to effectively communicate it to your employees, too. If the vast majority of them don’t know your policy, it’s a communication failure on your part.

The negative review disconnect

Outside of communication expectations, the report highlighted another disconnect between managers and employees: the impact of negative company reviews.

Technology has enabled employees to review their employment experience and bring more transparency to those who are on the job hunt. This is an extremely valuable resource for jobseekers when they’re trying to suss out companies they would like to work for.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of candidates take online reviews very seriously, with 57pc of employees saying they won’t even apply to companies with negative reviews.

However, the disconnect lies in how much stock managers put into these reviews, with two-thirds of managers saying that negative reviews only have some, little or no impact whatsoever on successful recruitment.

Negative reviews can often be a learning opportunity for companies to improve processes for their employees. Even better, exit interviews can provide the same honest feedback before a negative review surfaces online.

However, 45pc of employees surveyed said they have never had an exit interview, showing a lack of interest in learning from employees who leave the organisation, and increasing the likelihood of negative reviews online.

Work-life balance still lacking

While the Randstad US survey focused on employees in the US, it seems Ireland is not immune to unhappy employees either.

Another survey, this time from Dublin Airport Central, showed that only 13pc of employees surveyed said they have a great work-life balance.

The report, which surveyed 1,000 employees, found that half of respondents often work overtime. It also showed that more than a third of those surveyed wouldn’t recommend their current company to a friend.

These figures highlight major issues in terms of employee happiness and can often lead to employees feeling disengaged, overworked and burnt out. This makes employees far more likely to want to leave their job.

With more than a third of employees not recommending their company to friends as well as the amount of stock put into negative employer reviews, it’s time managers started paying attention to what makes their employees happy and, more importantly, what processes and practices make them unhappy – and start figuring out how this can be rectified.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading