What will a ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy mean for employers? 

Amy Owens

Written By Amy Owens

21st April 2021

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The Coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the way people work. With even more people working from home and needing to be constantly reachable, the boundaries between work and private life have become increasingly blurred. 

The ‘always on’ culture, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, risks ‘employee burnout whereby workers feel extremely exhaustedThis could be physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, or even all three. In any case, the end result is the same: unhappy employees, a drop in productivity, and a possible rise in employee turnover.   

The ‘always on’ culture has been put in the spotlight recently as UK ministers are being urged to tackle the negative impacts of home working by giving people the legal right to disconnect in order to improve their mental health. 

Polling commissioned from Opinium found that two-thirds of those currently working remotely supported the policy and wanted the UK to follow the lead of countries such as Ireland and France in helping workers who are struggling with keeping their personal and professional lives separate. 

In 2017, the ‘Right to Disconnect’ legislation came into effect to encourage a better work-life balance for workers. As a result, French businesses with 50 or more staff must agree times during evenings, weekends and days off, where work must not be carried out with a focus on reducing the impact of responding to work-related emails and messages. Having these out-of-hours agreements in place is expected to result in workers being less stressed. 

If the policy is included in the forthcoming Employment Bill, UK employers will be legally required to negotiate with employees and agree rules on when they cannot be contacted for work purposes.    

5 ways to encourage employees to disconnect 

  • Promote any Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)   EAPs are designed to support employees with work and/or personal concerns. These may include relationships, bullying at work, health- and alcohol-related problems, or financial and legal issues. Employees can usually access their EAP via 24-hour telephone counselling helplines or even face to face.
  • Practice wellbeing and self-care – The NHS recommends several steps for self-care and daily activities, such as breathing exercisesmild to moderate physical exercisedistraction through hobbies, mindfulness, talking and meeting friends and being in green spaces and fresh air
  • Encourage your team to disconnect – if your employees don’t disconnect from work, they’re not going to have a chance to recharge their batteries, which can lead to disengagement, poor work performance, and all the other telltale signs of burnout.
  • Look out for team members who you believe are struggling to balance work and home life and have a conversation – don’t be afraid to raise this. Our webinar series, ‘Managing Through Uncertainty’ provides lots of advice for managers on how to have effective conversations in the workplace.
  • Finally, ensure line managers are equipped to spot the signs of burnout and how they can discuss these with their teamIt’s important not to forget about recognising the signs of burnout in your line managers too.  

If you would like help with giving your managers the capability and confidence to spot the signs and deal effectively with mental health issuesour specialist team of experts can help. Take a look at our range of manager training courses and fill out an enquiry form to find out more.  

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