Employees want to ban out-of-hours emails from bosses while Working from Home. “There’s a lot of pressure to check emails, make video conversations, and be available at all hours of the day, and it’s becoming more difficult to draw the boundary between the business and personal life.”
“Over the last year, work has been increasingly stressful,” Claire Mullaly explains.
Claire, a Northern Irish IT specialist, claims that the position she and millions of other people working from home during the pandemic “aren’t sustainable.”
With many of its members reporting that their mental health is being jeopardised, the trade union Prospect urges the government to establish a legally obligatory “right to disconnect” for employees.
Outside of regular working hours, managers would be prohibited from “routinely emailing or calling.”
“While digital technology kept us safe throughout the epidemic, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the workplace for millions of people, making it harder to switch off truly,” says Andrew Pakes, Prospect’s deputy general secretary.
Office for National Statistics in the UK says 35.9% of employed people in the UK worked from home last year.
According to the report, while saving time on travel, this group worked an average of six hours of unpaid overtime every week.
In France, where firms are required to provide agreed-upon “particular hours” for “teleworkers,” the freedom to disconnect has been legislation for four years.
Last month, Ireland enacted a code of practice that requires companies to include “footers and pop-up warnings to warn employees… that there is no duty to react to emails outside of business hours.”
Prospect, whose members include managers, public employees, engineers, and scientists, wants the UK government to incorporate comparable safeguards in its forthcoming Employment Bill.
“It’s not beneficial for workers or companies to burn people out,” Claire explains. “We need to allow individuals space to unplug and rejuvenate.”
On the laptop before breakfast during WFH
Omar, a bank employee, claims that no one he knows believes they can work from home as they do in the office. They have access to large displays, technology, and the opportunity to communicate with coworkers.
And, he discovered, work takes over your life at home.
He says, “You’re on your laptop before breakfast.” “There’s the commute in, purchasing a cup of coffee, conversing with a coworker, then settling down at your work desk at 8.30 or 9 a.m.”
However, businesses and attorneys have questioned whether the right to disconnect is viable when many employees request flexible working hours.
Prospect’s suggestion would be “extremely tough,” according to Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
“The big question is how to create excellent working environments that are healthy for people’s health and how do we enhance people’s work-life balance,” he adds.
Respecting boundaries during WFH
Currently, the official advice in the United Kingdom is to encourage people to work from home wherever possible.
The Mental Health Foundation recommends that CEOs communicate with their staff daily to maintain their wellbeing.
They must, however, “respect the boundaries people have between work and personal life,” according to the document.
“We recognise that this thing has been an especially trying year and that the epidemic has had an impact on mental health,” says a representative for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
“We are fully dedicated to promoting and protecting workers’ rights, which is why we will consult on making flexible work the default, as promised in the [Conservative Party] platform.”
The government’s Flexible Working Taskforce looks into how “hybrid” work, split between home and the office/formal workplace, will function during the epidemic.
It includes disconnecting by glancing to the right.