I am talking with a professor to apply to a postdoc program. I sent a cold email earlier this week and we have exchanged a few emails. In his last email he sent me some papers to read.

The thing is, I might end up sending my answer on Saturday, after I read the papers. Is this a problem? Should I just send it and wait until Monday for his answer? Maybe send it but include an apology for writing during the weekend? Or should I just wait until Monday to send it?

I usually text everyone during the weekend including my advisor, but I'm not sure if it might be considered rude, and as I do not know the person yet I want to be as careful as possible with etiquette.

Thank you.

  • 33
    Students send me emails at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning - they get a reply later that day , I’m not waking up for an email... I will wake up if my sons or daughter ring me though...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 6:08
  • 19
    In general, I would advise not emailing between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, lest you get lost in the Monday morning backlog. Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 14:08
  • 22
    Do you send emails or text messages? You say you "usually text everyone during the weekend including my advisor", which sounds like a horribly intrusive thing to do. If by text you mean "send emails" then fine, but text or chat messages have a different etiquette and are much harder to mark as unread to deal with later.
    – terdon
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 14:35
  • 3
    Also, one of the benefits (or sometimes curses) of being in academia is that you're not stuck on a fixed 9-5 M-F schedule.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 16:15
  • 2
    You actually get email replies back from your professors? wow! You should consider yourself lucky. Let me know which school you go to, I want to apply there :)
    – Nasser
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 21:31

3 Answers 3


Email is a form of asynchronous communication: it doesn't matter when mail is sent, it can be read whenever pleases the recipient.

High-ranking professionals should not sacrifice their operational efficiency to avoid the possibility of lower-ranking professionals feeling stressed, overwhelmed, etc. by out-of-hours emails. High-ranking professionals should make lower-ranking professionals aware of work-life balance. Managers and subordinates should discuss expectations.

Technology can help. Email should never raise notifications. (They're too numerous and interfere with flows.) Messaging apps can be segregated: Some for work, others for home. (Signal at work, WhatsApp at home, for instance.) Work apps should only raise notifications during set hours.

Only individuals can establish their own, "best" work-life balance.

  • 36
    I partially agree, but only in the student->professor (or low->high rank) direction. The other way around can put a lot of stress on the students, leading them to think that they should be ready for extra work 24/7 in order to succeed.
    – DarioP
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 14:38
  • 14
    @DarioP I disagree. For a high-ranking professional to delay emails to avoid the possibility of a lower ranking professional being stressed is wasteful of the high-ranking professional's time. (Albeit, they could use scheduled emails.) The lower ranking professional should not be stressed by such emails and, if they are, then they should be discussing expectations with their superiors.
    – user2768
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 15:12
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    I agree witb @DarioP. Sending emails from bosses at unusual times gives the impression that it is normal or expected to work at those times. Especially for young phd students who did most of the time not have most experience in .) working out a good work-life-balance and .) are in the extremly hierarchical world of Academia, where your advisor has a ridiculous amount of power over them.
    – user111388
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 17:19
  • 10
    @DanielR.Collins: I see your point, but the solution to this would be to educate the (younger) people about the difference in the channels, not take extra precautions to keep them in (non-blissful) ignorance.
    – Heinzi
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 9:04
  • 5
    @Mavrik: pressure to work at weekends is bad and should be avoided. But working at the weekends isn’t itself bad — good work-life balance means having whatever work habits suit an individual best, and people’s tastes and situations vary.
    – PLL
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 10:44

When you are emailing someone with more authority than yourself (as is the case here), I don't see any problem with doing it outside business hours, provided that you don't ask for an urgent reply and don't blame them for not replying during that time. Of course, sending these emails might communicate some side information about yourself (e.g., that you work during week-ends), but this could be interpreted either way ("passionate about your work" vs "poor/unconventional organization") so I wouldn't overthink it. But don't worry about the effect on the recipient -- if they can't answer during the week-end or don't want to be bombarded with emails at that time, they won't have trouble disconnecting.

By contrast, when you are emailing someone and you are the one who has authority, you should consider the risk that emailing outside business hours could be interpreted as an implicit request to read work email outside of business hours, e.g., "I'm working off-hours so you should do it too". If this is a risk, then it can be a good idea to explicitly say in your email or email signature something like "This message does not require a reply outside of working hours" or otherwise clarifying with your subordinates what your expectations are. But that's clearly not the situation here.

  • Well, applying to a program is something you would normally do in personal time. If you send an application e-mail during core working hours, they might wonder if you're going to be doing that on their time, too... Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 21:41
  • 8
    @user3067860 In this context, for a grad student or postdoc, you are in a position that is explicitly a temporary career-developing one, and taking the steps to find your next position is part of your job. And you are free to use your university email for applications. It is completely different from being in a professional, potentially permanent position where you should not use work time/resources to job hunt without clear permission.
    – nanoman
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 22:27

There is an option to "schedule send" an email.

If you are afraid you might forget it or miss some information if you wait till the next weekday, write an email at that moment and "schedule send" at first hours of next weekday.

If you want to add some information, you can also do that before the scheduled time. This helped me a lot.

  • 2
    Neither of the two e-mail programs that I use regularly has such an option. (And I can't say that I ever missed it.)
    – Uwe
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 9:20
  • which email do you use? @Uwe Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 14:23
  • Either mutt or my institute's web mail system.
    – Uwe
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 15:36
  • 2
    As I said: It's a feature that I don't miss. Quoting user2768's answer, "Email is a form of asynchronous communication: it doesn't matter when mail is sent, it can be read whenever pleases the recipient." I don't expect instant answers on Sunday morning 2 AM.
    – Uwe
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 16:30
  • 3
    In my experience, the time of sending/receiving an email can have an impact on the likelihood of getting a response.
    – jerlich
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 7:17

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