Prospect, a trade union is calling for the government to give employees a legally binding ‘right to disconnect.’ This would ban bosses from “routinely emailing or calling” outside of working hours, and any emails sent at these times could be automatically deleted to deter off-duty staff from checking their inbox.
Prospect’s deputy general secretary, Andrew Pakes says; “While digital technology has kept us safe during the pandemic, for millions of people, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office, making it harder to fully switch off.” This statement is backed by statistics, with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that those working from home during the pandemic, on average, did around six hours unpaid overtime each week.
The right to disconnect has been law for four years in France, and Ireland brought in a code of practice last month, under which employers should add footers and pop-up messages to remind employees ‘that there is no requirement to reply to emails out of hours’. Prospect, whose members include engineers, scientists, managers and civil servants, wants the UK government to set out similar protections in its Employment Bill, which is expected to be published later this year, stating the measure is vital to safeguard workers health. A survey commissioned by Prospect in April found that 66% of people would support a ‘right to disconnect’ being added to the Bill.
“Remote working has accelerated the trend towards longer working hours, significantly increasing the risk of stress and burnout, and digital technology means that it is easier to be contacted and reminded about work out of hours,” Prospect said. “People’s experience of working from home during the pandemic has varied wildly depending on their jobs, their home circumstances, and crucially the behaviour of their employers. Remote working is here to stay, but it can be much better than it has been in recent months,” he said.
While answering the odd email every now and again isn’t the end of the world, it could easily become a slippery slope, and being contactable at all hours of the day could be a factor in triggering stress, anxiety and even burnout.
advo are here to help – contact us today if you feel you could benefit from advice on helping employees to avoid or deal with the effects of burnout, or any of the other issues discussed in this article.