The Right To Digitally Disconnect
In 2016, the French government released a series of legislative actions, promoting ‘The Right to Digitally Disconnect’, at the request of office workers across the country. From there, governments in South Korea, Germany and the Philippines all followed suit – allowing all workers in their regions the opportunity to switch off from work during ‘out of office’ hours, without fear of reprimand come Monday morning.
This workplace revolution has sparked a number of discussions on the topic of ‘digital disconnections’, with some office employees arguing in favour of the movement, and others rejecting the necessity of legal intervention on the matter. Both sides of the argument carry weighty debates – the idea of an improved work-life balance vs negligence of modern office culture means that many countries have avoided instigating such laws in their own societies.
But what are the real drawbacks of The Right To Digitally Disconnect, and who could get the biggest benefit out of such legislation?
Drawbacks of Digitally Disconnecting
One of the most significant drawbacks of the Right to Digitally Disconnect is that the legal definition only covers email communication, yet most modern offices will use other forms of communication to connect with their staff. Apps like Skype, Slack and Chatter are all still viable forms of professional communication that are not protected by the Right, meaning employees who switch off from these can still be penalised.
Another negative consequence of the Right is that many professions and sectors are dependent on the response times of their workforce. Workers in unpredictable roles, such as doctors, paramedics, police, security and social workers need to be alert and responsive in crisis scenarios, which may require them to take action. By switching off from all forms of professional communication, this puts those in their care at risk, and limits the reliability of the emergency and social services.
On a more low level note, switching off digitally can even, according to Guardian researcher Evgeny Morozov, switch off our active minds as well – making it harder to return to work on Monday morning. Turning off our email notifications and indulging in unproductive practices on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as spending hours playing mobile games and apps, can slow down the speed at which our mind reacts, meaning our professional abilities are handicapped when we need them. He argues that simply checking our work emails can help to ignite a mental spark and keep our minds active and thinking about our professional tasks subconsciously, rather than switching off altogether.
Benefits of Digitally Disconnecting
There are perhaps more benefits than drawbacks to digitally disconnecting. The obvious advantages lie in establishing a much healthier work/life balance, where home can actually be home, rather than a cosier extension of your office. The space to breathe, relax and enjoy quality time with family, friends, and alone is a necessity for keeping stress at bay.
Focus is another benefit to turning off your emails, in that your attention is never divided between family time and an important email from a client. When you’re in the office, you can direct all of your focus onto one task, without redirecting it into your personal life, making fewer mistakes, and eventually working harder overall.
Increased productivity in the office, as well as the current status of tasks and jobs can help to keep all members of staff on top of their projects. By repeatedly checking and replying to emails over the weekend, they form a mental ‘completed’ list in your mind, which runs the risk of being forgotten when work begins again. This could mean duplicating work, or forgetting to update colleagues on it’s progress, causing professional problems later down the line. Saving all of your tasks for the working day means a continuous correspondence as events unfold, keeping you and your colleagues on the ball and up to date at all times.
Team coordination and synchronicity are other great benefits to digitally disconnect, as in the office, everyone is present and working simultaneously. By extending that work into the weekend, the situation becomes difficult with some team members willing cutting into their personal time, and others refusing to. Those who refuse fall behind, whilst those who commit streak ahead, unevenly dividing an office into those who value personal time more than work and those who don’t. This could lead to tension and frustration, on both sides, and unfair favouring when it comes to promotions and increased responsibilities.
The Right to Digitally Disconnect is an important topic of conversation that should be discussed in every office across the country. Does your team believe in the right to switch off, and enjoy personal time, or should the work and responsibility come first?