It’s 11:03 p.m. You’re laying in bed, ready to pass out in preparation for the day ahead. But then a blinding beam of light floods your room. A ring dings and your nightstand shakes. You pick up your phone, and waiting there on the screen is an email from your co-worker. Time to answer it.
Answering email from workplace colleagues isn’t that uncommon. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic wrote Monday about how workers across America feel the need to respond to emails late at night, forcing them to tune-in to their jobs during the afterhours.
The McKinsey Global Institute paper found that Americans spend on average 13 hours a week on email — which accounts for about 28 percent of the workweek. And a 2012 survey by the Center for Creative Leadership similarly found that professionals, company managers and executives keep in touch with their employers 13.5 hours a day overall through email and smartphones — and five hours through email on the weekends. Some countries, like France, have even tried to ban emails after work hours.
To help you track your late-night emails, here’s a look at 12 messages you may receive from co-workers at bedtime:
The urgent message
This is the email for when something goes wrong or an item needs to be addressed immediately. It usually comes from a superior, but can come from someone farther down the totem pole that made a mistake. Careful with these emails, though. Researchers at the Harvard Business Review found that people tend to overreact when it comes to mistakes and errors.
The pat on the back
You just hit the goal for the month. Time to celebrate. You may get this email a little later on in the night when someone wants to give you a pat on the back — especially your boss. A sign of a good boss is that they offer some praise for you when it’s deserved, according to researchers from the University of Utah. And good bosses, the research noted, make the company perform better.
The useless ones
Spam email accounts for more than 70 percent of the email you get, and nighttime is no stranger to this kind of email. Whether it’s some hacker trying to break into your system or a weird newsletter you signed up for in the past, spam is known for sneaking through into your email and causing you to hit the delete button.
The personal message
Your friend is up late, they’re perusing the Internet and bam — they send an email to your work account. Not the worst thing, since it seems to be a common trend. So much so that employers have even begun to strike back at people using their work emails or phones for personal use. Be careful with responding to this one, though. It’s possible this friend may have sent you an NSFW (that’s Not Safe For Work) email. But there are plenty of ways to handle that.
The email that never ends
You’ve been here before. What seemed like a simple question has sprawled out into some odd discussion about what needs to be done at the office. This is the beginning of a long email thread, where workers are shooting messages back and forth. Sometimes responders double back and reply to an earlier message before sending their next, creating a chaotic mess of email. But these messages can be cleaned up with simple and clear language, among other things, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The one riddled with typos
Upon a second read, you see that the email you just opened is packed with typos, misspellings and grammar errors. While you can probably get the main point of the email — especially because typos can be hard to catch, given that your brain processes pieces of a word rather than the entire word itself, according to some research — you may still feel a little embarrassed for who sent it. You may even find it unacceptable. Suggest these tips to the typo writer, if you are so inclined.
Part of your daily routine may include writing notes in your email for the following day and then sending it to yourself. So, late at night, when you’re looking through your emails, you may stumble upon your own. Some, like lifehacker expert K. Stone, have suggested planning for your day the night before, since it’ll make you realize the important tasks you have coming up. But sleep expert Reena Mehra told ABC News that planning your day before sleep can stress you out. So it may be best to get those tasks — or worries — resolved hours beforehand.
The co-worker conundrum
That dude who sits across from you in the office? He just sent you an email telling you what he plans to bring for lunch tomorrow. Cool story, bro. Email etiquette from your coworkers is actually one of the reasons people don’t like the people they work with, according to salary.com. This includes hitting reply all in scenarios where maybe everyone doesn’t need a reply, or someone WHO TYPES IN ALL CAPS. If you’re worried about your emailing style, take a look at these tips from The Muse to better the emails you are sending.
The email everyone is on
The subject has that personal feel to it, sure, but it’s really just packed with everyone on your team. From the guy who refills the water jugs to the productive health nut over in accounting, this email is for everyone’s eyes. Be wary of hitting that reply all button, though. It can be dangerous (like these disasters from Business Insider). For those sending the emails, the BCC option may be what you’re looking for.
The ones you get on vacation
All the hope for an unplugged vacation is thrown down the drain when people are sending you emails late at night. Americans only use half of their vacation time, so this is reducing even that number. But there may be an easy way for you to deal with those emails. Time magazine reported on a new German app that simply deletes all the emails that come in when the user is on vacation and out of the office. That may seem drastic, but it’s being done as a way to give workers a rest, Time reported.
Yes, even the pranksters get their fix late at night. When you’re scrolling through your email list, it’s not totally out of the question to see the office clown sending you either a joke email or one that’ll make you worry for a second. They probably got the cue to do that from these two joking office workers and their emails.
The marketing email
If you signed up for any newsletters or promotional emails, you’re bound to get some at night. Experian, a marketing services company, reported in a 2012 study that the best time for marketers to send emails is between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. Watch out for those.
Did we miss any emails that you’re used to getting late at night? Email Herb Scribner about the types of emails you’ve received at firstname.lastname@example.org.