Disconnecting from work in a remote environment.
The world of work is in a continual state of evolution, however the events that have occurred in recent years have meant that in many instances the way we work has changed profoundly.
Remote working is undoubtedly a good thing, and at IMS we have embraced it thoroughly – we are now a 100% remote workforce. But it doesn’t come without its challenges, one of which can be a feeling of “always-on”.
All employees may feel this, but it can be amplified in a remote working environment, where the separation between home and work is often blurred.
This is partly what led to the ”right to disconnect” code being signed into effect in April 2021.
What is the Right to Disconnect?
The Right to Disconnect refers to an employee’s right to be able to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails, telephone calls, or other messages, outside normal working hours.
The Code states that the Right to Disconnect has three main elements:
- The right of an employee to not routinely perform work outside normal working hours;
- The right to not be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours; and
- The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).
What does it mean for employers?
The Code envisages the “creation of a culture in which employees feel they can disconnect from work and work-related devices”, and the implementation of a Right to Disconnect Policy will be a key part of the creation of this culture.
In short, you should consider developing and implementing a Right to Disconnect policy that outlines what employees can expect in relation to outside-hours rights and responsibilities.
If in doubt, you should of course seek legal advice, but from a cultural perspective your aim should be to prevent employee burnout and ensure a comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere that employees enjoy stepping into – and out of!
The benefits are a motivated and content team, ready and able to give 100% of their focus and energy during working hours.
What does it mean for employees?
This code provides a level of support to employees who are experiencing a culture of always-on. Your employer should be looking at developing a policy around this, and ideally this should be collaborative so that it addresses the real-world problems and challenges that the employees are facing.
The benefit is a defined and agreed approach to out-of-hours work, which should ultimately lead to a more enjoyable experience in both home and work life.
What can I do to help me “switch off”?
In the absence of a defined “Right to Disconnect” policy, there are still some things you can do to help you achieve a better work/life balance.
Without the usual commute to psychologically signify to yourself that work is over, it can be hard to achieve a feeling of being “finished work for the day”.
Try some of these to help you disconnect once work hours are over:
- Set out of office on emails
- Use other communication tools, like Teams or Slack, to signify you are offline
- Set notifications to “off” outside of work hours.
- If possible create a distinct “working space” in your home. This allows you to “leave” work to some degree and psychologically leave some of it behind.
- Change your clothes after you leave your home office. Again, this will help you to feel that “separation” between work and home.
- Take short breaks during the day. Go outside to widen your field of vision beyond your computer screen.
- Make plans for after-hours – go for a run or a walk. This should help you to clear your mind and reset for the evening.
Ultimately we are all adjusting to a new world and new ways of working. Those who get it right the quickest will benefit most and have a head start on the rest. If you want your company to attract and retain the best talent, then it is imperative to make your company “sticky”, so that your people truly enjoy working there and don’t feel an urge to leave for pastures new.