We’ve all had those nights where our phone goes off — and it’s an email or text from our boss, a client, a parent, or someone related to our work. You eerily open the email or text on your phone hoping it won’t be anything that will make you drop what you’re doing and deal with after work has ended. You debate whether or not you actually need to respond to the message that night, or if it can wait until you’re back at work the next morning. As you ponder what you’ll do, that voice pops into your head that says, “Don’t these people know I’m not at work right now?”, “Do they not care?”, “Do they not have a life?”
Then the voice pops into your head that says, “Well, I don’t want to get in trouble for ignoring it. I guess I can respond.”
The Liberal party is hoping that Canadians won’t have to make these decisions anymore, as they have proposed a right-to-disconnect law, which allows people to not engage in work-related electronic communications during non-work hours.
Anyone can relate to the feeling of getting a work email after you’ve left for the day, but not wanting to leave it unanswered because of fear of being reprimanded for it the following day. For anyone in a competitive position at their workplace, oftentimes after hour work emails just become part of their daily routine as fear of missing out on a potential client as someone else may get the upper hand.
France passed their Right to Disconnect law in 2017, where companies who have more than 50 employees now have the right to turn off work devices after working hours.
If this human rights law were to be passed in Canada, the pros certainly outweigh the cons. For those who constantly find themselves putting in overtime by answering emails when they’re at home, it would allow them to leave work at work. It would allow them to go home and focus on their family, grocery shopping or just simply relaxation. We all want to promote having a balanced life, but we don’t always do a great job of taking action to try to help ourselves and others maintain one. Less employees feeling burnt out should lead to greater productivity during work hours, which in turn, should eliminate the amount of possible work emails to come in after work hours in the long run.
While France has set an example of not only passing the Right to Disconnect legislation, there are also plenty of other aspects of France (and other countries) to help people avoid burnout. In France, some companies now disable work emails after work hours, and don’t allow employees to schedule meetings towards the end of the work day. Citizens of France receive a minimum of five weeks of vacation, and only work a 35-hour week.
So, while the Right to Disconnect could greatly improve the lives of Canadians, there are also some aspects of work-life that will still leave some employees feeling burnt out. Companies in France that have eliminated (or greatly reduced) meetings in the afternoons help ensure employees are able to end their work day at the same time. The Right to Disconnect Law would ultimately be fruitless if workers had to stay at work an extra hour three or four days of the week to make up for not responding to emails when they go home.
While the idea for Canada to adopt the Right to Disconnect law is certainly on the right track to help Canadians establish more balance in their lives, there are plenty of other things that need to happen to increase the overall happiness and health of Canadian workers.