Virtual Teams

Why the right to disconnect would kill flexibility

In December, the Scottish government committed to undertaking ‘meaningful discussions’ on providing its employees with a right to disconnect. France has already passed legislation preventing out of hours use of emails and other countries such as Belgium, Ireland and Germany are considering the same.

The idea is to prevent employees feeling stressed by having to answer emails outside working hours, but this feels like a discussion that’s been overtaken by the move to more flexible working.

As an employer, if legislation prevents me communicating with people outside defined working hours and prevents them working outside of those defined hours, then I will obviously need to focus on them being available during those set core hours.

How about if an individual wants to deal with other commitments during the day and catch up with a couple of hours in the evening? Perhaps they need to switch working hours this week to deal with clients in another time zone and will take some time off during the day or a flexi-day to balance their workload. Maybe they want to flex their working pattern during school hours, school holidays or around caring commitments.

With the “right to disconnect” a government will decide that none of that is possible. You can only communicate with people during fixed hours therefore people will have to work fixed hours. Who are they to define what working pattern works best for us as individuals?

True flexibility has to go both ways and defining limits, particularly in a legislative framework, is likely to put severe constraints around work flexibility.

I hope the meaningful discussions include input from people who have actually thought this through. If not the right to disconnect may kill flexible working hours.

Maybe this email signoff from one of our contacts would be a better solution “I support flexible working. My emails are sent to you during the hours that I work and I understand that you will respond during the hours that you work.

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