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‘Always on:’ increasing work obligations outside the 9 to 5

A city office employee works into the night as darkness closes in.
A city office employee works into the night as darkness closes in.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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There was a time when the work day ended at 5 p.m.

But with technology making us more accessible, there isn’t much to stop the boss from sending a late night text or email. And while there’s technically nothing holding us back from ignoring work, the anxiety of not answering can be trump our need to Netflix and chill before a few hours sleep to start the grind again the next morning. Some may even say that answering the call of work after hours could set you apart from the crowd, giving you a better chance of moving up in your career. As unfair as it may seem, the obligation to work outside of the office is getting stronger. And depending on the company, you may not have compensation for the minutes or hours that are racked up answering those last few emails at the dinner table.

So what kind of protections are you entitled to with this changing labor landscape? Is it fair for your boss to ask you to answer a question past quitting time, or should we just accept this as our current work culture?


Jennifer J. Deal, senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership, a San Diego-based leadership development organization where her focus includes “always on” work culture