In the United States, many are beholden to an “always on” work standard, where emails, texts, calls, Slack messages and even meetings follow you home well after the workday should have ended. Some jobs even require workers to answer emails and messages when they’re otherwise busy with doctors appointments or tending to their children’s needs.
If you’re not at the office, the presumption is that you must, at least in some sense, still be working, and that your managers must know your whereabouts. As a Reddit post recently pointed out, this is best exemplified by a holdover from mobile email’s early days—the email signature that says “sent from my mobile device.” Despite being a superfluous footnote, it remains part of the, er, charm of corporate culture.
Even though the novelty of sending email from a phone wore stale years ago, this signature still comes standard with many mobile operating systems. But it perpetuates an annoying notion about the all-encompassing nature of work—namely, that your superiors must know if you’ve left the office. To that end, it’s worth it to consider deleting the signature entirely.
Normalize being away from a computer
As one Redditor recently wrote: “Normalize being away from a computer.” It’s important that workers and managers understand that you cannot be chained to a desk (even metaphorically speaking). As The Nation reported in 2018, “nearly a third of American employees clock 45 or more hours at work each week, and about 10 million put in 60 hours or more.”
This perpetual slog is only reinforced by email signatures that at least appear to make amends for your momentary distance from a computer. But for one thing—leaving your desk for a moment or two should be perfectly OK. The very existence of “sent from my mobile device,” or “sent from my iPhone” signatures seem to offer an apology, or a suggestion that a worker strayed from the responsibilities of their job simply by being without a computer.
If you’re not at your desk, so what? The truth is that you will eventually return and be more than capable of answering whatever missive is there waiting for you.
Nobody needs to know where you are
You’ve been hired by your company, and likely vetted by human resources. If you duck out for a bit, your colleagues know you’re not out robbing a bank. If you’re not missing anything vital, why insist upon letting everyone know that you’ve left the building?
Nowadays, we can work from anywhere at any time, given there’s a WiFi connection or access to enough cellular data. There’s no added benefit to letting anyone know that you’ve written your message on your phone, aside from maybe saving face if your message is sent with typos.
Don’t make so many typos
I know this is likely to enrage some of you, so I’ll apologize in advance. The reason you’re sending emails riddled with typos is because you’re not proofreading them closely enough. I think it’s totally fair to have a signature that at least recognizes that a few misspellings may have slipped through the cracks. But you should probably ask yourself why you’re writing emails in such haste to begin with.
If it’s inescapable and simply imperative that you reply within seconds of receiving an email, it’s definitely not a bad thing to note that your response might contain an auto-correct fail. Otherwise, it suggests far less unprofessionalism if you were to do your due diligence and send your missive after reading it over at least once.