Should employees have the ‘right to disconnect’ outside of work hours?

October 29, 2019


According to recent research, banning employees from accessing their work emails out-of-hours could do more harm than good.

The research was conducted by the University of Sussex in response to a growing movement against the use of out-of-hours emails, on the basis that a lack of “down time” arguably makes employees less productive while at work and exacerbates anxiety or other stress-induced health conditions.

The French have set an example in this area by introducing a law which has been dubbed the ‘right to disconnect’.  Since January 2017, French businesses with 50 or more staff must draw up a charter of good conduct indicating strict timeframes within which emails should not be sent or responded to. 

In the UK, some companies have considered adopting similar codes within their IT and Communication policies and aim to warn or even discipline persistent offenders.

However, the research from the University of Sussex suggests that rather than helping employees, a strict ban on out-of-hours emails could be detrimental to employee wellbeing. The research found that whilst some employees may benefit from banning out-of-hours emails, for others it could prevent them from carrying out their work and achieving their work performance goals. Some employees felt they needed to respond to a “growing accumulation of emails”, and worried that implementing strict policies on their email use could cause them stress and anxiety by denying them the chance to keep up with work.

Therefore, taking a flexible approach to this issue allows employers to encourage greater productivity by enabling their staff to work on a flexible basis, whilst ensuring that there is still a sensible work-life balance in place.

Top tips for employers:

  1. Review your staff practices in relation to the use of out of work emails, and assess whether this practice is having a positive or negative effect on work performance and staff wellbeing.

  2. Make sure that you have an IT and Communications Systems policy in place setting out your rules and guidelines in relation to the use of out-of-work emails.

  3. Train your staff on the appropriate use of out-of-work emails and the importance of finding a work-life balance that is appropriate for them and for your business.



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