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The Future of Work: Do Employees Need a Right to Disconnect?

Last month, New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal introduced a bill that would make it illegal for an employer with more than 10 workers to require employees to access work-related communication outside of normal work hours. This legislation is similar to the “right to disconnect law” passed in France in 2017. With both of these initiatives, it’s clear that there is an ongoing struggle in society today to understand the best way to create work guidelines and parameters that meet the needs of the changing digital workplace.

Receiving emails, chats, or phone calls after hours is frustrating but almost inevitable in today’s “always on” work environment. Technology has made it easy for employees to stay connected from anywhere, and at any time. However, employees still need to be able to disconnect to avoid burn out and instead, feel happy and productive during the time they are spending at work.

While well intentioned, these “right to disconnect” laws are likely not the best way to encourage work-life balance among today’s on-the-go workforce. Today’s workers crave flexibility, and with this, they want the ability to shape their work schedule to fit their life. In fact, a soon-to-be-released survey from Fuze found that an overwhelming majority of workers (89 percent) feel flexibility should be standard to how we work and 73 percent work outside of set “work hours,” as they claim it makes them more productive.

Rather than chaining employees to a set schedule, companies today need to look for ways to foster a flexible, remote work culture that encourages employees to craft the schedule that is personalized to meet the needs of their lifestyle and allows them to shape time to disconnect – and crafting this culture starts at the top.

Here are a few tips for organizations today to foster work-life balance among employees in the digital workplace: 

  • Lead by example: Creating work-life balance for employees today involves establishing a cultural shift – and to make this stick, it has to start from the top. Managers must be conscious about creating their own work-life balance and encouraging their teams to do the same. For instance, my teams know that I’m often traveling and can work irregular hours depending on where I’m working from that week, and what my priorities are – however, this doesn’t mean I expect my team to work the same hours. In fact, I often use our Fuze platform to see when various employees are “online” across the globe to encourage team members to log-off if its outside their usual schedule, or especially early/late in their time zone.
  • Forgo the traditional 9-5 workday:  While off hours emailing is frustrating, it’s almost inevitable for companies dispersed across different time zones. What may be end of day for one person, is just the beginning of another’s. Since this is the case within Fuze as a services-based company, we encourage employees to create a schedule that works for them personally and their role within the organization. Maybe signing on a bit later on the East Coast eases the burden of working with a team on the West Coast. As long as teams are aligned on work schedules, offering a flexible workday is important to keep people sane when the “workday” doesn’t seem to stop.
  • Encourage taking time to disconnect: We’re in a time where work-life balance has really become work-life integration. In today’s constantly connected work environment, it’s often hard for employees to disconnect – even after hours. We’ve found that disconnecting is almost just as important as connecting – taking time offline, will ensure time online is more valuable. Encourage employees to take this time to disconnect, recharge, and return ready to work.

Stay tuned for more insights coming out of our Workforce Futures report next month and learn about the pillars to an effective remote work strategy here

Want more? I'm speaking about digital workforce trends in a keynote at UC Expo on May 16 in London. We will be unveiling our latest research, live on stage with a special guest speaker. To learn more about Fuze at UC Expo, click here

Michael Affronti

Michael Affronti

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