Even teachers need a break when school is out

Educators are being bombarded with emails and group messages on social media, handling inquiries from parents, students and colleagues at all hours

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2017, 12:56am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2017, 12:56am

Group messaging is so common nowadays that most users may have several active chat groups on their smartphones. It is no doubt a convenient communication tool for work and socialising. But the content can sometimes be so trivial and the volume so overwhelming that it makes mass messaging a nuisance. Even when the mute mode is turned on for some temporary reprieve, there may still be plenty to catch up on afterwards.

Unfortunately, many people do not have the choice to ignore messages, especially when they are work-related. Take teachers as an example. Many are obliged to join parents’ groups set up for organising school activities or discussing children’s homework. With dozens in a group asking questions or responding to each other, sometimes in the late evening or at odd hours, the pressure on teachers to follow the exchange and reply can only be imagined.

According to a survey conducted by an education workers’ body, more than 50 per cent of the respondents said they answered parents’ inquiries via messaging apps, while 48 per cent answered pupils’ questions relating to studies. More than two-thirds said their private lives had been affected by messaging, while one in six said their work stress had intensified as a result.

Most Hong Kong teachers overwhelmed by volume of instant messages from parents and students: survey

Teachers are not alone in having to cope with such extra stress outside working hours. Many professions still do not have standard working hours and employees are expected to answer work-related emails and messages instantly.

Early this year, the French government set a precedent by passing a law that enables employees to ignore work emails outside typical working hours. Such a “right to disconnect” may seem like a luxury in a workaholic city like Hong Kong. But it has not stopped 77 per cent of teachers from demanding that the Education Bureau issue guidelines that give them the right to go offline after work. Whether it is a necessary step is open to discussion. Meanwhile, parents should perhaps be more considerate and stop bombarding teachers with messages; after all, parents would want the same protection from their colleagues and employers.