The right to disconnect – or how to keep your team healthy, burnout-free and… alive
Working remotely, as most of us have over the last year and a half, means tasks can be performed from anywhere, at any time. Having easily accessible communication platforms such as email and Slack literally pinging away from our pockets or on our screen at all times has led many of us to casually check them while having dinner, watching a movie, or having a conversation with loved ones. So, in many cases, the lines between work and personal time have been completely blurred.
Researchers at Lehigh University Belkin found that, on average, individuals reported spending almost eight hours a week monitoring work-related emails after hours. It also found that 55% had a hard time detaching from work, and only 8% had no problem doing so.
On top of that, the sudden transition to remote work for many companies not used to this setup has also led one in five companies to turn to digital surveillance to keep tabs on their employees, or plan to do so. So we’re always on, “watched” and available.
This has extremely damaging consequences for well-being, quality of life, physical and mental health.
To name just a few stats, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that overwork is shortening life from heart disease and stroke. For example, people who work 55 hours a week faced a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of heart disease when compared to those who work 35 to 40 hours a week, according to the WHO’s report.
In short, it’s literally killing us.
The Right to disconnect
So at Livit, we enshrined the ‘right to disconnect’ in our culture deck and our daily practices.
What is that?
We believe the ability to disconnect is a necessary, fundamental right that allows our team members to refrain from engaging in work-related tasks (including phone calls, emails, and other digital communication) outside working hours in their respective time zone. This includes holidays and other forms of leave.
Working for Livit and being part of the team, whatever the role, shouldn’t come in contradiction with being a great partner, parent, sibling, child, etc. In other words, we do NOT expect team members to be available and reply outside of their regular work hours, unless they are working flex hours and that’s when they’ve decided to be online that day.
We are a remote capable team working from several different countries, with clients and partners across 4 continents, as well as have flex schedules. So there is always someone online, working, sending messages and updates, asking questions. But just because someone (including a team member’s lead!) has decided to work at a time/on a day that is off, that doesn’t mean said person is expected to reply right away.
So how do we do this?
We encourage everyone to enable Slack notifications (as well as email & all other work related notifications) only during work hours, and be active for a while a couple of times a day. This is to allow for both collaboration and timely communication, as well as focused work during the work day. In our team, unless you work in customer service/are covering a shift, most notifications should be, by default, off, so we can take back control of your time, do our best work in a focused, efficient way & have enough time and headspace for the other things in our lives outside work.
And the good news is that authorities in various countries are on the same page with us.
Dutch, Irish, French, Spanish, Canadian and several other legislators have already passed laws in this direction or are considering it. The World Health Organisation has also made a number of recommendations to governments, which includes setting limits on working and making work time more flexible.
The always-on culture is counter-productive, stressful, and it’s literally causing us to suffer from burnout, heart disease, strokes, and ultimately, death.
So let’s do away with it and turn a new page.