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Disconnecting from Work

What is meant by disconnecting from work?

Disconnecting from work refers to being able to stop doing paid work and not being obligated to respond to work requests outside of established hours. Some examples of disconnecting are:

  • No contact between employers, managers, workers, or clients outside of established hours (e.g., phone calls, video calls, or emails)
  • Not performing job duties outside of established hours


How has technology contributed to the issue of disconnecting?

Being able to remain in contact with your workplace outside of a physical location or building is possible now due to information and communication technology (e.g., high-speed internet, wireless communication, cellphones, etc.). The ability to work anywhere and anytime with relative ease has caused the boundaries between being “at work” and “not at work” to blur.  Before this technology was widely available, workplace communication occurred mostly at a common location during defined hours.


Why is it important to disconnect?

Each person can be affected differently based on factors such as frequency and duration of work, the nature of the job, etc. Having uninterrupted personal time away from work stressors allows your body and mind the opportunity to relax and recover. An individual who does not sufficiently disconnect may experience any combination of the following:

An organization that does not allow their workers to sufficiently disconnect may experience more:

  • Workplace incidents, workers’ compensation claims, and lost time
  • Turnover
  • Errors and quality decline
  • Negative company reputation

The benefits of workers being able to disconnect may include:

  • Happy, healthy, more productive staff
  • Higher job satisfaction and staff retention
  • Positive organization reputation
  • Reduced incident rates, lost time, and workers’ compensation claims

What should be included in a workplace policy about disconnecting?

Organizations can encourage all employees to disconnect by establishing a policy that outlines when and how to disengage from work activities or communications. The disconnecting policy may stand alone, or may be included as part of a comprehensive workplace health and safety policy .

Each workplace is unique, and policies should reflect the needs of that workplace. Common elements of a policy regarding disconnecting from work include:

  • A clear definition of what is meant by disconnecting from work
  • To whom the policy applies.
    • If needed, separate policies may be developed for different groups of employees (such as workers, emergency responders, management, or executives).
  • Commitment by top management to support the policy
  • How workers will be educated and trained, and kept informed about the policy and any changes
  • A statement that no reprisals will occur when individuals follow the policy
  • Statements regarding what work or work communication can or cannot occur outside of established hours
    • The work or work hours may vary, depending on negotiated terms (e.g., continuous versus flexible  hours), the role of the individual, or the tasks required.
    • Set expectations for response times to non-essential e-mails sent after established hours.  For example, it may not be necessary to reply to a client communication outside of established hours, but response to a defined type of emergency may be required
    • Set expectations when work involves collaboration with others in different time zones
  • What messaging is required when an employee is considered ‘away from work’, such as an out of office notice
  • Details regarding overtime, including any approval process and how it will be compensated
  • Requirements from any labour or employment standards that apply (such as hours of work, eating periods, vacation pay, public holidays, etc.)
  • If access to work devices or network servers will be restricted outside of established hours (e.g., removing or limiting access to the work virtual private network (VPN))
  • If software will be used to monitor device use, declare what will be monitored and when
  • If work-only devices will be provided or required (e.g., use of a cellphone dedicated only to work needs)
  • Actions that will be taken to help employees disconnect, and if there are consequences to not disconnecting
  • Promoting taking earned time off (e.g., vacation leave, personal days, sick days, etc.)
  • Information on how employees can participate and provide feedback
  • Resources available to help such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

When developing the policy:

  • Include input from all employees, the health and safety committee or representative, and union if present
  • Conduct trials to determine if the established hours of work or the current policy and processes are adequate
  • Adjust the program as needed, based on evaluation, the needs of the workplace, and feedback from all employees
  • Continue to follow and include safe work procedures for other hazards, such as ergonomics , telework  arrangements, etc.

What steps can be taken to help individuals disconnect?

The employer or management can:

  • Lead by example
  • Promote disconnecting at the end of work hours as part of the corporate culture
  • Avoid rewarding employees who continue to work outside of their designated hours

Individuals can:

  • Turn off or put away work devices outside of working hours, if possible
  • Avoid working more hours. Discuss workload or agree on additional time with the employer or manager
  • Prioritize health and personal life outside of work
  • When working outside a corporate building, dedicate a space in the home that is reserved for work, if possible. When the workday is over, do not enter that space
  • Use the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), as needed and when available

Document last updated on May 19, 2022

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Disclaimer

Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.