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Working Hours
Working Hours

The Right to Disconnect

The Right to Disconnect

Everyone agrees that when you are running your own business it is difficult to switch off.  There are growth plans to make, budgets to manage, and employees to consider – oh, and the business of actually doing the work!  You probably can’t disconnect that easily – but what about your employees?

From the beginning of 2017, French workers have won the ‘right to disconnect’ from their employers.  This means that French companies with over 50 employees must begin to negotiate and define with their workforce the detail of how they can switch off from work.  This might not seem relevant for the UK, particularly if you assume that Brexit means we won’t be affected by European Employment Law in the future, but it makes you wonder about the thinking behind the legislation.

Keep an eye on working hours

Many of us are almost addictively attached to our smartphones – hence the recent increase in penalties for driving offences involving the use of phones, and the decision of many workplaces to limit personal smartphone activity in the workplace for health, safety and productivity reasons.  Using these devices for your work can be an amazing convenience, enabling a previously impossible level of flexibility, but they can also present an unhealthy additional work pressure and lead to excessive working hours.  Some employees will feel the pressure to always be ‘switched on’ and put in many hours of unpaid overtime without even realising it.  And as we all know, excessive working without proper breaks can lead to many conditions such as stress, depression, sleeplessness and burnout.

From an employers’ point of view this can also result in a blurred understanding of how many hours their employees are working and the resources they really need for their business.  Encouraging employees to work in this way (even if it is accidental) at best inhibits an employees’ creativity, but at worst can create a feeling of resentment towards the company and even result in absent or seriously ill employees in the future.  Neither of these situations are where a responsible employer wants to find themselves.

Switching off

So how do you avoid this without a draconian switching off process?  No-one wants to deny their employees flexibility, or the ability to send an urgent email out of hours that will save a huge issue during the next working day.  However, you can look out for signs of overuse and give your employees the permission to ‘switch off’.  Ask yourself honestly:

  • are you perhaps encouraging an ‘out of hours’ culture by sending emails after hours?
  • are your employees doing more than they should after hours?
  • are you unclear about why your employees are working out of hours?
  • are you relying on unpaid overtime to resource some tasks?

If the answers to any of these questions is yes, then you should probably review the out of hours culture in your workplace.  It will be for the benefit of you, your employees and the health of your business in the long run and if you would like our help, then please call us on 0203 319 1649.