There is always a moment of pressure when your phone beeps and it is a text from your boss. Whether the text is a follow up to a meeting that occurred during the day or instructing you to execute work after hours, that need to carry out the instruction that has just been sent grips you.

In a bid to attract digital nomads with labour laws, Portugal has now made it illegal for bosses to text workers after hours. This, coupled with other labour law changes are set to attract more digital nomads who are individuals who perform their work over the internet while traveling.

As much as we are seeing an influx of work from home and work from anywhere, there is a need to set the tone in terms of interaction with staff after hours. If employees can work from anywhere and don’t exactly have a fixed shift, then it can be suitable to contact employees when there is a pertinent query.

Now, while some might see an after-hour work request as an opportunity to shine out with the boss the reality is this might not be the case. Your boss will feel like they can always rely on you to pick up the load, making the other team members feel they need to remain competitive and follow suit.

Yes, there will be times when you have to work around the clock to meet a deadline and perhaps check your emails and respond to them after hours for a big deal that needs to be closed. But what should you do if this behaviour becomes a regular routine and have you putting in more hours when you are off the clock?

  • Start by setting personal boundaries.  We must draw the line between personal and work life. Prevent scrolling through emails in bed and working when you can’t fall asleep. Remind yourself it is acceptable to disconnect after the work day. Even though establishing boundaries might seem easier said than done we must try to achieve this. If you find your work life constantly infringing on your personal space due to texts and emails from the boss then it’s time to have a conversation with them. The trick is to make your boss see that there is something in it for them. Your boss might not like you confronting them about the topic but once you make them see how doing work after hours doesn’t give you chance to do it to your best, they might ease up on those after hour queries. 


  • Assess how urgent the situation that needs your attention is. Once you receive a correspondence from your boss about a particular request, try to determine how urgently does this need to be dealt with. As an employee you are able to determine when to respond to this query but as a boss, you should be able to conclude the same. 


  • Usually, if emails are not tended to urgently, then your boss might fire a text at you. This might have you sweating bullets before opening WhatsApp in the fear of having to see the text and needing to respond. The fact is communication is key. If you have received a text from your boss and it is a follow up to an email you have not seen yet, then you must make him aware of this. If you are not at home or near your computer you won’t be able to meet the request. Being open and honest with your boss might remind them that after hours work should be limited to absolutely urgent tasks. 

Given the current working hybrid, we must be open to communicate about deadlines and meeting client needs. Despite there being progress on the work front there have also been challenges for people having to adapt to the new normal.

Staff members are expected to be more accessible, especially those who work from home and this thinking coupled with the gratitude to have a job during the pandemic has influenced the fear to not confront the boss.

As we approach the festive period and start to deal with an influx in queries, sending communication with regards to any after-hours work is necessary. Instruct staff about the possibility of after-hours work and when possible the remuneration or overtime attached to it.


Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, a South African TVET College. He is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

The ICHAF Training Institute offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

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