employee working from home after their hours have finished.

When is it okay to ignore your boss? The Employee’s Right to Disconnect

There are numerous benefits to hybrid working for employees. A better work-life balance, improved productivity, and more flexibility for families. However, studies are now suggesting that much of this comes at a price. As smartphones and laptops keep us up to date with the latest teams message and email, the lines between work and home have been blurred, employees are struggling with disconnecting after work, and the concept of the “right to disconnect” has gained significant traction. This notion refers to the employee’s entitlement to disconnect after work from work-related communications and activities outside of their designated working hours.

Disconnecting After Work

At the heart of the right to disconnect lies the recognition that constant connectivity can lead to burnout, stress, and a decline in mental health. When employees feel compelled to be available at all times, they struggle to switch off mentally, leading to exhaustion and diminished productivity during working hours (Derks et al., 2016). Moreover, the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life erodes precious time for relaxation, hobbies, and quality time with loved ones, exacerbating stress and negatively impacting overall satisfaction and happiness.

Several countries and organisations have taken steps to formalise the right to disconnect. Legislation has been introduced in some jurisdictions to support workers. For instance, in France, the “right to disconnect” law obliges companies with over 50 employees to negotiate policies that establish employees’ rights to ignore work-related emails and messages outside of their contracted hours (Flood, 2017). Similar initiatives are being considered or implemented in various other countries, signaling a growing recognition of the importance of delineating work time from personal time.

Managerial Training For Hybrid Teams

Employers play a crucial role in setting the tone and expectations around work-life balance. Encouraging managers to model healthy behaviours, such as refraining from sending non-urgent emails outside of working hours, and setting their out of office on weekends can go a long way in promoting a healthier work culture and encourage employees to disconnect after work.

Moreover, updating managerial training is essential in a hybrid working business. Promoting mindfulness and time management practices can empower employees to establish boundaries and prioritise their well-being. Training programs on stress management, resilience building, and work-life balance can equip employees with the skills needed to navigate the challenges of constant connectivity while maintaining their mental and emotional health.

Despite the benefits of disconnecting after work, there are challenges to its implementation. There are certain industries or roles where round-the-clock availability is essential. These include emergency services and global businesses operating across multiple time zones. In these organisations, striking a balance between operational needs and employees’ rights can be complex. Moreover, cultural norms within organisations may perpetuate the expectation of always being available. This makes it difficult for employees to exercise their right to disconnect without fear of repercussions.

A tailored approach is needed in these scenarios to support employees and the wider organisation. At Fieri, we have over a decade of experience working with organisations. We develop tailored people management structures that supports leaders, people and organisations.

To find out more about our tailored solutions, contact our team at info@fierileadership.com

References

Derks, D., Bakker, A. B., Peters, P., & van Wingerden, P. (2016). Work-related smartphone use, work-family conflict and family role performance: The role of segmentation preference. Human Relations, 69(4), 1045–1068.

Flood, P. C. (2017). The right to disconnect in France: A comparative analysis. International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, 33(3), 311–328.