In the bible of bad work ethics that is The Devil Wears Prada, editor Miranda hounds her staff by calling them incessantly at all hours.
Yet, this kind of demanding behaviour is not limited to the realm of fictional parody.
In an eye-opening interview with the New York Times this week, CEO Erika Nardini – a self-confessed “horrible interviewer” – admits to testing job candidates by messaging them during their time off, to see how long it takes for them to respond.
Nardini, who leads New York-based men’s lifestyle site Barstool Sports, says she expects any potential employees to be thinking about work all of the time.
“I’m a horrible interviewer. I’m impatient,” she says. “Here’s something I do: If you’re in the process of interviewing with us, I’ll text you about something at 9 pm or 11am on a Sunday just to see how fast you’ll respond.”
The correct response time – whether you happen to be having a lie-in or catching up with loved ones – is apparently “within three hours”.
“It’s not that I’m going to bug you all weekend if you work for me, but I want you to be responsive,” Nardini explains. “I think about work all the time. Other people don’t have to be working all the time, but I want people who are also always thinking.”
If this sets off alarm bells, then be warned: everything about Nardini’s business ethos sounds a tad extreme.
“I think I’m punishing,” the CEO says. “I have a large ability to grind. If I want something or if I believe in something or I think something should be done better, I will push and push until I exhaust people.
“I really value stamina and drive. I am bad with stagnation and complacency. It’s not just about winning, but did we do everything possible to make something happen?”
One of her interview questions, Nardini says, is “It’s Saturday morning, what’s your game plan for the day?”
For those of us who answer, “erm, I dunno...” or “sleeping off that extra glass of Rosé” – well, presumably you are OUT.
Nardini’s zealous approach may sound on-point, but it’s actually out of kilter with progressive workplace thinking.
“Being ‘always on’ hurts results,” says US-based productivity trainer Maura Thomas. “When employees are constantly monitoring their email after work hours — whether this is due to a fear of missing something from you, or because they are addicted to their devices — they are missing out on essential down time that brains need.
“I’ve seen over the past decade how after-hours emails speed up corporate cultures. And that, in turn, chips away at creativity, innovation, and true productivity.”
This is exactly the reason why France decided to ban workplaces from sending out-of-hours emails last year, with a bill that gives employees a legal “right to disconnect”.
It’s also the reason why the Danes leave work on time every day – and many innovative companies are following suit.
“This starts with the leadership team - we make sure not to stress our colleagues by staying late, or emailing at night or over the weekend. Occasionally I do work at the weekend, but when this happens, I make sure that this isn’t seen. Otherwise, colleagues may feel like they ought to be working, too.”