Workplace Culture

Disconnect to reconnect: Why employees need time to unplug

January 27, 2022

For the past two years, homes have doubled as offices, and working and non-working hours have blurred together. This has further promoted an “always on” work culture. To be “always on” means employees are regularly working or engaging in work-related communications outside normal work hours.

It may not seem like a big deal if an employee sends a quick e-mail after hours or uses their weekend to wrap up a project. For some, this may even seem like the ideal employee who goes above and beyond to finish their tasks. But that extra time working comes at a big cost: employees are having a harder time balancing work and life, which can have a huge impact on their well-being.

The effects of the “always on” culture have led many countries, including France, Italy, and the Philippines, to introduce laws that give employees the right to disconnect. In Canada, the federal government has established an advisory committee to explore the subject. Recently, Ontario has become the first jurisdiction in Canada to require disconnect from work policies.

How these general principles are presented in legislation will differ by jurisdiction, depending what types of requirements the government decides is appropriate. For instance, in December 2021, Bill 27, also known as the Working for Workers Act, 2021, was passed in Ontario. The new law requires employers with 25 or more employees to implement a written policy on disconnecting from work within six months of the act receiving Royal Assent.

Why does the right to disconnect matter?

Remote work tools have enabled many businesses to continue their operations, but it has also made it harder to disconnect. A study by NordVPN Teams found that employees worked an average 2.5 hours longer each day after transitioning to remote work.

Employees need time to disconnect from work—not just by physically turning off their computers but also by getting out of the mental mindset of work. This gives them the opportunity to recharge. With added feelings of stress and uncertainty from the pandemic, downtime is more important than ever.

How does the right to disconnect benefit employers?

The right to disconnect helps employees maintain clear boundaries between their work and personal life without fear it will negatively affect their employment. For employers, encouraging their team to unplug can have major benefits as well.

  • Prevents employee burnout: The pressure to always be available can be exhausting. This pressure may be from managers’ expectations or due to examples set by co-workers. Employees need enough time to rest and relax before returning to work. A healthy work–life balance gives employees time to pursue hobbies or passions and spend time with friends and family. This can then help them feel more engaged at work and prevent systemic burnout.
  • Improves productivity: It may seem counterintuitive, but time away from work actually helps with efficiency. There are scientific reasons why downtime and breaks help productivity. When employees are well-rested, healthy, and happy, they are more likely to be productive and creative. By getting the rest they need in their personal time, they can bring renewed mental capacity, creativity, and innovation into their work.
  • Increases engagement and retention rates: A workplace culture that encourages rest shows that it respects employees and their boundaries. This can help lead to higher morale in the workplace. Showing employees they are valued as people can increase job satisfaction and improve employee engagement.

Help your employees unplug

A right to disconnect policy can help set expectations in your workplace and create a culture where your employees don’t feel guilty for disconnecting.

To help you get started, we have put together a guide on the causes and effects of the “always on” work culture, with advice on how you can encourage and enable your employees to disconnect. Download our FREE Right to Disconnect Guide for Employers.

Download now!