The Right To Disconnect From Work

Did you hear that France is trying to pass a law that would allow workers to disconnect from the office without fear of disciplinary action? Here’s some more on the proposed bill:

The “right to disconnect” legislation, which would go into effect in 2018 if passed, would require companies to encourage employees to turn off phones and other devices after they leave work…

The law reflects the sense in France that white-collar workers in the digital age are vulnerable to burnout.

Technologia, a risk analysis firm, found that 3.2 million French workers were emotionally exhausted from work and at risk of developing burnout symptoms like exhaustion and chronic stress.

“It is a real problem,” said Yves Lasfargue, a sociologist who specializes in teleworking. “Twenty years ago, before emails had been invented and we could not reach colleagues, we would have to go and knock on their doors. Traditional courtesy teaches you to abstain from disturbing people. With these new tools, this form of courtesy has totally disappeared. This is why we need to legislate.”

“Traditional courtesy”.

Two things at play here. First, there’s no doubt that our new hyper-connected world is causing people to work in ways we could never have imagined twenty years ago.  Most white collar jobs currently have no ‘unplugged’ off the clock hours any longer. People are connected from the moment they wake until the moment they go to sleep, many even getting up during the night when they hear notifications coming in on their devices.

That’s a problem. That’s an organizational problem because we will see burnout at a faster rate than ever before. I am starting to hear about organizations that are shutting down email servers at 6pm and not turning them back on until 5am, trying to force their employees to shut it down and refresh, even shutting down during the weekends. It’s a drastic step, but one some organizations feel is the right one.

Secondly, is this concept of traditional courtesy.  This 1950’s idea of not disturbing someone who is at home for the evening. Most everyone in the workplace has no understanding of this concept.  We don’t come home at 5pm to a wife and kids sitting down for a hot meal the ‘Mrs’ cooked all afternoon. Our society has completely changed from this “Leave It To Beaver” idea of how our lives should look.

Still, I hear this courtesy issue come up many times when speaking with corporate talent acquisition pros. Well, we don’t want to make calls to people after 6pm because ‘they’ don’t like it.  I still call bullshit on this! People don’t like getting calls after 9pm, otherwise, we’ve been conditioned by telemarketers to expect calls up until 9pm.

People don’t like being bothered at home with stuff that doesn’t have value to them! If you call them about a great opportunity, they would rather take that call from home, than from work. This has nothing to do with courtesy.  If someone has decided to ‘unplug’ for the evening, they simply won’t pick up your call. You believing this is a courtesy issue, is an excuse not to be an effective recruiter!

So, what say you? Should there be laws on the books encouraging people to shut it down at night?  I think our new world has given us more flexibility to work in our own way. I personally like that I can work when I need to. Do I need to ‘unplug’ more, especially around my family? There is no doubt. But don’t take my flexibility away from me!

2 thoughts on “The Right To Disconnect From Work

  1. Truth! When I knew I had a long day of grinding on the phone, I’d start later in the morning and end later. Why? because people are busy working and doing their work stuff from 9am to noon and don’t have time to chat on the phone. from noon to 8pm? Yup, that’s prime recruiting phone call time. The best part, the 5-8pm block.. they always took my calls, because no one else was dialing them.

  2. Agreed, let people make their own decision on whether to look at email or texts over the weekend. Leave flexibility; no law can fit the needs of everyone. Further, we don’t need big brother to legislate every aspect of our lives; it disrespects our ability to make intelligent decisions for ourselves.

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