For employees, the spread of flexible work schedules since the pandemic has put a premium on getting their digital email signatures right. After all, with millions of Americans now working remotely, it's becoming ever more important to let colleagues and clients know when they're on and off the clock, including when not to expect a reply right away.
Take Jesse Kent, president of Derring-Do, a small public relations firm in New York. Ever since the pandemic, he has included the following line of text below his name in his email signature: "My work day may look different than your work day. Please do not feel obligated to respond out of your normal hours."
Kent has long worked unconventional hours, a necessity given the need to be available to his clients around the world. And post-COVID he's also seen a shift in how they operate. "I've noticed my clients are also riding the flexible work wave, fitting in their replies whenever they can, even if that means pausing for family moments and circling back to work later in the evening," he told CBS MoneyWatch.
Kent also said his digital signature has been well received.
"It's been a hit. Clients, journalists and others in the loop have really appreciated the nod to flexible working hours over the stiff 9-to-5 routine, allowing everyone to reply when it suits them best," he said.
Transparency is key
Non-profit veteran Laurie Greer, who most recently worked as a vice president at NextUp, a women's empowerment organization, also added a flexible-work notice to her email signature for the first time during the pandemic.
It now reads: "I work on a flexible work schedule and across a number of time zones so I'm sending this message now because it works for me. Feel free to read, act on or respond at a time that works for you."
"I wrote it during the pandemic, but it makes even more sense now because so many people keep flexible work schedules, and that's something we promote, especially in women's equality organizations," she told CBS MoneyWatch. "People step away from their desks to fix their kids' lunch and they may come back on at 7 or 8 at night, so I want to be respectful of that."
In Greer's case, she's most concerned about being respectful of other people's time. "I am including this in my signature to give them the opportunity and the ability to work when they feel is most beneficial to them," she said.
Public relations pro Brenda Manea, an employee of a firm called BAM communications agency, makes clear in every email that her firm has adopted a four-day work week.
What started as a test program about a year ago has become permanent policy, and her signature now reads: "BAM is a flexible agency, with teams working across multiple time zones Mon-Thurs. I may be slow to respond on Fridays."
Transparency is key in communicating to how the agency operates, Manea said. "It's what has helped us make it work. You show people how you want to be treated, and the signature is an example of that."
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