Read time - 02:31
Before we delve into the nitty-gritties of the topic: 'the right to disconnect, lets first explain where the concept stems from.
We live in a super-connected world with many employees now getting work emails sent to their smartphones. You know the drill, WhatsApp messages from work group chats and checking emails before you even step out of bed. Imagine you just got home from work, barely had time to sit down, your phone vibrates and its an email from your boss marked 'urgent' - you just got back from work!
This hyper-connectedness is causing employees to have anxiety because of the need to always respond, coupled with the expectation of receiving these messages. This then led to a culture of burned out employees with blurred lines between work-life-balance which further led to a proposed bill: 'The Right to Disconnect.'
What this 'right' means
It means we need to disconnect from our electronic gadgets and or instant messaging platforms especially if the connection is work related - after office hours. Countries like the US want to propose this bill in order to protect employees from over-engaging, unless otherwise stated in their contracts by employers that it is a prerequisite.
But is this bill realistic for a globalised workforce in a modern society? Let's delve into this.
As we all know employees are entitled to rest periods and bosses cannot force them to answer WhatsApp work group messages outside of their working hours. Jon Brodsky manager for finance site Finder.com thinks that restricting the hours that employers can contact their employees does not take into account global growth, remote opportunities and seamless communication between employers and employees. This then begs the question, when do employees switch off from work?
Well, it depends on your industry and type of work.
The modern workplace no longer implies your presence at the office. The modern workplace allows you to send a quick voice note or text to employees at any time of the day regardless of schedule. So should we still have bills that allow us to disconnect after work hours?
Maybe not, but it is illegal for a boss to demand around-the-clock attention from employees. Except of course if they bought you the cell phone and are paying for the data and it was stated in your contract. Then though shall not disconnect!
WhatsApp as an official tool of communication
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other instant messaging platforms are now more popular than email in the workplace according to research.
We have all seen or heard of someone who got in trouble at work because of these platforms.
At FNB a good 4 employees were fired for what they communicate on WhatsApp be it 'private conversation.' I personally know a friend who ended up in HR because of what she posted on her WhatsApp 'stories'and someone who got a warning for not replying on the group chat. Companies take these platforms very serious!
In India, an IT worker got fired for leaving a WhatsApp Group chat. The manager demanded everyone use WhatsApp as an official tool of contact rather than calling and emailing. So if WhatsApp is part of your company's communication policy then you cannot make a personal decision to refrain from the platform.
However, if your company does not have a policy in place regarding communication on instant messaging platforms, then the best solution is to have honest conversations about expectations regarding this as they are not official tools of communication.
Share with us, what are your thoughts on instant messaging platforms as tools of communication in the workplace?
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