Can the “right to disconnect” exist in a remote working world?
We are working harder than ever. A glance at the emails as you get the little one out of bed; reviewing a presentation around midnight around a dimly-lit kitchen table, when you finally get the chance to eat that dinner you’ve prepared hours earlier, on a conference call. While increased flexibility has been a boon to workers in the age of the pandemic, it also means that we are less and less likely to log out.
Even if things have gotten bad, however, this permanent culture has been on the move for years, and this is something that many countries are seeking to mitigate with “ right to disconnect ” legislation – laws that give workers the opportunity to take a step back. of their work without penalties. But now the pandemic has left workers particularly exhausted – so tackling the problem has never been more critical.
Ireland is trying to do just that. Although several countries, mainly in Europe, have passed different levels of previous legislation on the right to disconnect, Ireland is one of the first countries to try to introduce a code specifically centering the new era of working from home. Irish post-Covid-19 rules aim to preserve work-life balance and protect all workers, including those who work remotely and flexibly – something past laws did not taken into account.
However, the solution may not be as simple as it seems. In practice, it may be virtually impossible to combine the ability to disconnect with the freedom to work remotely, especially if it means creating different schedules than other colleagues. And, in the worst-case scenario, some experts also warn that mismanagement of these initiatives could compromise some of the flexibility that workers were only able to negotiate recently.
So, is it possible to enshrine the right to disconnect in a new world of remote work? Or are we still heading towards the overburden and burnout that we’re trying to avoid, no matter what laws are being crafted?
A new type of right to disconnect?
Countries around the world have been trying to figure out how to pass effective right to disconnect legislation for years. These laws and regulations manifest themselves in different ways – some restricting the workday or workweek, others restricting after-hours communication. But all are aimed at protecting employees from overwork and protecting them from any repercussions of the shutdown.