Ever heard of the right to disconnect?
February 2017, by Audrey Chrétien

Ever heard of the right to disconnect?

Today’s smartphones boast impressive features. These little devices let you do almost all the same work you do at the office. But is that really always a good thing? And do companies come out ahead when everything is said and done?

Most employees have access to their work email after hours. It’s great to be able to get a head start on projects, but when used too much, these devices can encroach on family time, leisure activities and relaxation.

With current technologies and the rising popularity of remote work, people are more likely to answer their emails at any time of the day or night. As an employer, do you expect your employees to always be available to answer messages? We’ve observed different attitudes depending on a company’s specific culture. In some places, it would not be viewed positively, whereas elsewhere it’s completely acceptable. It’s up to management to communicate its expectations and issue guidelines on the matter.

France takes the lead

On January 1, 2017, the French government decided to put a stop to the problems caused by carrying your work in your pocket at all times. With the new “right to disconnect” law, workers* are no longer required to answer calls, emails and text messages received outside business hours. These measures are designed to ensure respect for downtime and vacation, in addition to protecting work-life balance.

The situation in Quebec

No similar legislation exists in Quebec. North American corporate culture is very different from that in Europe, and we don’t expect any such law to be adopted in Quebec in the next few years. Moreover, no Quebec company (or even locally based division of a French company) has implemented this type of measure.

However, the French law gives businesses something to think about in terms of reconsidering their practices. Why not take the opportunity to ask your employees what they think?

– What percentage of them work during evenings and weekends?

– Are they comfortable with being connected when not at work?

– Do they feel pressure to answer messages?

– Why do they decide to make themselves available? To be more efficient? To be more productive? To stand out from the others?

Advantages for employees and employers

If your employees receive messages at all hours of the day and night, they might start to feel pressured to deliver results. While some people allow themselves the freedom to wait until the next day to respond, others may feel compelled to react immediately.

The new generation of workers attributes a great deal of importance to a healthy work-life balance. Even though they are hyper-connected, they appreciate being left alone when they are not at work. This is something to keep in mind.