Do we need a right to disconnect main

Do we need a ‘right to disconnect’ or is ‘integration’ the solution?

Work-life balance. It’s been a hot topic for many years and now Millennials are bringing their own perspective to the issue: work-life ‘integration’.

For them, there’s no line that creates an equal distribution between work and life to form a balance. Instead they propose integrating work with the other elements of their life. Whether that is caring for children or older relatives, health and wellbeing activities, voluntary work or any other personal priorities, integration ensures life and work overlap and flexibility cuts both ways.

After all, this digitally-literate generation grew up with technology that allowed them to connect from almost anywhere, anytime. That may explain why they accept being connected to, and completing, work outside standard business hours. Why then, they wonder, do we need to be physically present in an office when many jobs involve duties that can be performed virtually or with an accommodating work schedule?

Attend a gym class between 2 and 4pm? Why not? They did after all work 8 to 10pm on a project last night. Work on the train while commuting? With noise-reducing headphones it’ll be quieter than many offices. Finish work at 4pm to collect a child from day care? You know they’ll log back in once their little one is down for the night. Attend a child’s weekly tennis lesson? They do respond to emails every evening.

With clear objectives in place and performance evaluation based on outcomes rather than hours physically present in an office, integration would create synergy between work and life.

There is of course the other side to the coin and it’s a far more prescriptive approach.

In 2016 French workers won the legal ‘right to disconnect’ from emails outside business hours. The policy came into force on 1st January 2017, and limits the encroachment of work during non-working hours by legally giving employees working for companies with 50 or more staff the right to turn off digital devices and technology.

"These measures are designed to ensure respect for rest periods and ... balance between work and family and personal life,” said France’s Ministry of Labour to CNN.

But there is some disagreement as to whether this resolute policy would work in Australia and New Zealand. In a survey of ours, 39 per cent of respondents thought their organisation should adopt a similar strategy to France’s. A lucky 6 per cent already have a similar policy in place at their workplace. Another 23 per cent think it’s a good policy but don’t believe it would work in their organisation.

The final 18 per cent do not like the policy, while 14 per cent were unsure.


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