The right to disconnect can be defined as an employee’s right to disengage from work outside of working hours and to refrain from responding to work-related notifications such as e-mail or other messages.
According to Indeed, “When the pandemic caused work to be pushed into the home, it became difficult to see the boundary between home life and work life. Many people started to become available almost 24/7, as it was hard to put your work down when it was always around.
As this became the norm, expectations around when you do work also changed. A lot of people felt obligated to answer emails or phone calls even after they had already put in a full day’s work, and it became difficult to disconnect.
This caused a lot of people to feel burnt out, meaning they were both physically and mentally tired and unable to do their work well. When this happens, it can affect how well work gets done and employees’ job satisfaction.
When workers feel burnt out, they might disengage from work, meaning productivity levels can fall. Job satisfaction is really important to have productive employees, so if your employees start to feel unsatisfied with their work, the organization sees the consequences.”
A right to disconnect: The legal context
A right to disconnect already exists directly or indirectly in some local legislation and collective agreements. Some companies have also adopted policies and practices to limit digital connectivity blurring work-life boundaries. For example, it has been reported that some German car manufacturers have frozen email servers overnight and imposed restrictions on employees accessing emails during holidays. In Spain, an insurance company formally recognized employees’ right to turn off their mobile phones outside of working hours. However, the existence of a right to disconnect is a long way from being widespread globally.
By having policies around the right to disconnect, you can protect your company from lack of motivation and disengagement.
- To put together a right-to-disconnect policy, it is essential to:
- Know the laws in effect in your country
- Ask employees about disconnecting and assess their needs
- Write the policy so that it applies to all employees, taking into account any exceptions
- Distribute the policy to employees
- Lead by example by enforcing the policy rules
- Update the policy as practices evolve