Should We Have A Right to Disconnect from Work?

right to disconnect

21 Oct Should We Have A Right to Disconnect from Work?

For many people, especially in the world of finance and consultancy, there is no such thing as a nine to five. However, with the advent of worldwide lockdowns, employees have begun to challenge the old status quo. They ask a simple question: should we have a right to disconnect from work?.

white usb cable on brown wooden table

‘Disconnecting’ right now

A common refrain around digital detox is that the twenty-four working day makes it impossible. Especially in the financial services industry, if someone else is awake or a market is opening, the argument is that employees should be too. We’ve written about the problems with tech-work-life balance before, but for many years a legal “Right to Disconnect” has been a pipe dream. But the movement has spread. An EU resolution for disconnection after work hours has passed and there are murmurs that the UK should follow its lead. The French have led in this. In 2017, the French government passed a law requiring a company of more than fifty employees to draw up a charter that must clearly set out how employers could communicate with staff after designated working hours. Ireland has also recently implemented a series of codes and best practices for employers on the subject to “navigate an increasingly digital landscape”.

What are the barriers to disconnection?

Aside from legislation, the biggest barrier to disconnection from work is that companies are more dependent on tech than ever before. Taking email as just one example, the average office worker receives one hundred and twenty-one emails in a day. That’s an average of five every hour of the day and night. Most workers in Britain haven’t worked a traditional ‘9-5’ since well before Covid, making it difficult to formulate any set regular hours into law. That is all before the most obvious question of all: will restricting out-of-hours communication make companies more productive.

Is disconnection productive?

The short answer is yes. Whilst we can’t truly know the implementation effects until laws have been passed, early results are encouraging. In a study done into the effects of disconnection on home and office workers, 80% of Swedish employers reported higher rates of productivity amongst workers, with similar results in France and Brazil. It also found that even amongst neutral organisations, rather than ones who openly support changes, the results were similar. Longer hours, it seems does not equal greater productivity.

The Future of Disconnection

Whilst several countries have passed measures to help employees disconnect, it will surprise few to know that it is far from becoming a reality across the board. The best you can do at the moment is to tailor disconnection to your own individual hours. If you are unsure as to where to start with disconnecting from work, or you want to explore digital detox further, here are some more articles from us on the subject”

  1. Three Overlooked Ways to Achieve Flow and Reach Peak Productivity in the Office
  2. How to Switch Off After Work
  3. Your Work Life Balance Needs Digital Detox
digital detox book

For further inspiration on work-life balance our latest book, ‘My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open’ is available on Amazon now.

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