Remote work has completely changed the way we work and communicate, it’s given new thought to how teams and companies can remain in contact without having to be physically present in an office.
An annual survey by remote and flexible job search marketplace, FlexJobs found that 58% of respondents were looking to remain remote full-time even after the pandemic. Some companies have in due time come to adopt different models of work, with around 39% of them seeking to adopt a hybrid model that combines both work and office balance.
Today the concept of remote work or work from anywhere for some employees has become almost commonplace, as more and more employees transition into working from their homes, and companies looking to shift into a digital office space.
But while the home office now gives employees more flexibility, freedom in the schedules, and the ability to adjust their routines to fit around their work-life – we’re seeing more remote employees working longer, and harder.
Surprisingly enough, remote employees will on the average clock in an additional four hours per 40-hour work week, that’s almost 10% more than their in-office peers.
During the earlier months of the pandemic, some employees stated they were working more than they were before the pandemic, with an alarming 75% claiming they tend to work over weekends.
Excessive work, and oftentimes, overworking are causing more employees to feel burnt out, even when they’re able to work from their home. Longer hours in front of the computer, having to deal with endless work emails, and constantly being online to make sure the work gets done are pushing some adults to the brink – and it’s starting to get serious.
Better yet, overworking and toxic company culture are seeing an increase of employees, around 35%, sharing their employers’ company culture is now starting to deteriorate, and it’s becoming a bigger issue for those employees who work remotely.
While government legislation exists to curtail these occurrences, this mainly accounts for employees who are present within an office each week. More so, some companies will have a written policy that states working hours and conditions, which in some cases is not the most attractive.
For those who enjoy the freedom of working from home, or from basically anywhere, as long as they have a stable internet connection – such laws and policies are still something we’re only now starting to see come to life.
And while digital and virtual work has already been around for quite some time, long before the pandemic was even known, assistance from federal law can help create a progressive agenda that could see new laws come into play, ensuring that remote employees can log off, disconnect and take the rest they need.
The Right To Disconnect
Governments around the world have been working on new legislation and policies that would ensure employees have the right to disconnect. This would mean, that employees can:
- Not perform work or work-related activities after or outside of normal working hours.
- Workers do not have to attend work-related activities and matters that are outside of their regular hours of work.
- Employers should respect their workers’ right to disconnect.
- A formal in-house policy should be enacted and shared among employees.
- In special cases, workers are entitled to receive compensation over time.
The right to disconnect is a structure that allows employees to completely turn off from work, even if their office is only a few doors down from their bedroom.
The combination of personal and professional has made these things more difficult, as it’s now easier, and more convenient for employees and colleagues having to “quickly check up on work” after hours.
To help mitigate these activities, countries around the world have been working on legislation that would make it easier for employees to disconnect once the working day has ended.
Back in 2016, France, Italy, and Spain were among the very first few countries to have introduced such legislation. These countries were able to create a forward-thinking plan, which ensured employers are not allowed to contact employees outside of working hours if it’s work-related, and employees are prohibited from being penalized if they refuse.
In the executive wing of the European Union, the EU Commission, politicians, and policymakers are now building new insight and information regarding the future of work, and how the digital or virtual workplace will be shaped in the future.
These actions allow politicians to draw up legislation that would see more employees having the right to conduct work-related activities if it falls outside of their core working hours.
Portugal is perhaps even taking it a step further, as the country was perhaps the first to introduce a law that makes it entirely illegal for an employer to contact their employees after hours.
Of course, the case is different if it’s seen as an emergency, but to go as far as to make it illegal, shows how politicians and business leaders are changing tides when it comes to remote working protocols.
Portugal’s labor laws enacted back in November 2021m have helped other countries see the value in creating progressive labor practices that look to improve the working conditions and well-being of employees.
In Canada, Bill 27: Working for Workers Act, 2021 recently came into effect, after the Ontario government was able to pass it in late December 2021. The new bill requires employers with 25 or more staff members to establish a policy that should indicate how they will ensure employees log off from their workstations and disconnect.
Starting in March 2023, the same Bill 27, would now require employers with 25 employees or more to have a written policy that outlines the rules and regulations of employees to disconnect from the workplace.
The practices not only make it easier for employers to have better control and monitor employees’ activity, but it also ensures that those who are struggling to disconnect entirely or are being pounded by work and colleagues after hours have at least some form of an arsenal.
All-in-all, the progress has been somewhat slow, but considering how many nations have already, and are busy working on some legislation to help their employees disconnect shows just how far we’ve come in a short time.
Our remote work lifestyles should be balanced, and we should still value our work, and what we do, but this time, during the hours we’re on the clock.
Carma Khatib is a passionate innovator and product manager with significant experience driving digital products from conception to launch. My mission is to find and create solutions to real-world problems that ultimately impact a company's triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit.