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Manage expectations of availability

black iphone 5 on red textile
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Research has shown initially people expect a response to an email within about 24 hours. However, if you respond more quickly, people quickly learn to expect you to be a quick responder! On instant messaging apps, people are likely to expect an even faster response.

In our research we found that people will message you on the channel they think they are most likely going to get your quickest response on. Create some “perceived boundaries” by setting your status or out of office message to give the perception that you are not immediately available – if you want to check your emails, go ahead, but it doesn’t mean you need to reply straight away.

Keep a low profile

Research has shown that, in addition to using your past behaviour as a guide, people make use of online statuses to infer your availability and determine how quickly they are going to get a reply. If you do not want people to assume that just because you are online you are available and can be interrupted, hide yourself away on your communication channels. 

How to turn off read receipts:
WhatsApp -> Settings -> account -> privacy -> switch off read receipts.
These will still be turned on for group chats. In group chats, you can check only for your own sent messages who has received it and/or read it, by clicking on the message and then selecting ‘info’
iMessage/Messages (iOS)
device settings -> messages -> switch off ‘send read receipts’
Alternatively, only on iMessage (Messages) you can turn off read receipts for specific people. Open Messages -> tap on the conversation you are interested -> tap on the name of the person at the top -> Info -> Send read receipts -> toggle it off (it needs to be white).
Settings -> account -> privacy -> privacy and safety -> direct messages -> switch off read receipts.

How to turn off online status:
WhatsApp (“last seen at…”)
Whatsapp -> Settings -> Account -> Privacy -> Last seen -> Select between everyone, my contacts, nobody

Let people know when they can get hold of you

Set email signatures.
Tell people when/how you check emails or what channels are best to be used for certain situations

Set an out-of-office for the weekends.
You could say something like “As an attempt to master more work-life balance, I don’t check my email during the weekend. I will get back to you next week

Examples of Email Signatures:

• Please note I work flexibly – so whilst it suits me to email now, I
do not expect a response or action outside of your own working
• Please note: I sometimes work offline but will check emails at
least once per working day.
• I’m terrible at carrying and answering my phone/email/social
media/etc., best way to reach me is ***.
• Email is the best way to contact me. If you need to talk to me
please send me your number and I’ll call you back.
• Q: Why is this email a pre-determined number of sentences or
A: http://sentenc.es

Examples of Out of Office messages:

• I’m out of office until 16/08. I get a lot of emails, so you may
wish to contact me again after this date.
• I am on leave until 16/08 and will not be able to respond to your
email until I return.
• I’m away on holiday with a large pile of novels. I’ll be back on
• I’m on leave until 16/08. If your message requires an urgent
response, please re-send after that date.
• I’m travelling between 10/08 and 16/08 with limited access
to email/Internet/etc. If it’s urgent, you can find me on social