Disconnecting from Work

Intro: This podcast is brought to you by the Canadian Centre for occupational, health and safety.

Ashley: Hello and welcome to health and safety to go a cc OHS podcast Ontario's, right to disconnect law. Recently came into effect and several other jurisdictions within Canada are looking at an acting their own, according to a 2020 government of Canada survey outside of their work hours. 43 percent of workers, check their work, email 28 percent of workers perform other work related to their job and one in three workers respond to work, emails or answer work calls or texts.

The changing nature of work and an increase in hybrid work Arrangements has meant that workers and employers are more. Better than ever before even when they aren't in a shared physical workspace. Some workers report that there's an expectation. They be readily available to communicate with their employers, even outside of working hours.

We're joined today by Riane Marrs, an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist here at CCOHS. Thanks for being here Riane

Riane: Thanks for having me.

Ashley: So, disconnecting from work happens in a number of ways at the end of the day over the weekend or days off and during vacations. What are employers' obligations in terms of providing opportunities for employees to disconnect?

Riane: Well, in terms of obligations, many workers in Canada, don't yet have a legislated right to disconnect. And while some jurisdictions are considering implementing such legislation, only one province currently has it in force. But even if it isn't legislated, employers can encourage disconnecting through policies and workplace values.

In addition to that, provincial, territorial, and federal governments do have laws that require employers to provide time off from work unless their occupation is exempt or there are extenuating circumstances. Some employment standard laws include protections for workers to have time off on a per day and per week basis unless other arrangements have been made. For example, many employment standards require a minimum of eight hours off work per day and one period of 24 consecutive hours of work per week. Any additional time worked would need to be compensated as prescribed by the law or according to a collective bargaining agreement.

In addition to this, some jurisdictions specifically state that on-call or standby workers are not considered to be working. However, if the worker is called in, they are considered to be working and must be compensated for their time. In other situations, hours, or terms of work, may be negotiated in contracts such as in a collective bargaining agreement. And, as always, it's important that employers check what is required for their jurisdiction.

Ashley: That's right. And as I understand, Right to Disconnect legislation exists in a number of other countries already, such as France, Germany, Italy, and Slovakia, to name a few.

Riane: Yeah, that's right.

Ashley: So, what happens when employees aren't able to fully disconnect? why are more and more jurisdictions looking at this legislation?

Riane: When employees aren't able to fully disconnect there may be an increase in work related stress. In fact, researchers studying work-related stress are evaluating the impacts of being continuously connected and early indications suggest that the inability to disconnect from work could cause workers to experience poor recovery from work due to the inability to switch off increased work-life interference, higher levels of burnout, a sense of fatigue, and increased health impairments.

Ashley: And what about for remote workers. How does not being in a physical workplace affect their ability to disconnect?

Riane: Not being in direct contact with managers and supervisors can sometimes make workers feel as though they need to be online and available beyond their typical work hours to show that their productivity is still strong. This can make it difficult to be present with friends and family during what should be their own personal time or downtime, and it can negatively impact work as well.

Being able to disconnect fully from work each day and have regular breaks and time off helps workers to focus and bring a renewed energy and creativity to their work when they return.

Ashley: That makes sense. And what are some ways employers and supervisors can encourage employees to fully disconnect from work?

Riane: If employers and supervisors want to encourage employees to fully disconnect from work, they need to lead by example.

They can do this by promoting disconnecting at the end of the day and not sending emails outside of the regular working hours. And if a supervisor or employer is working outside of regular hours, they can even use the "Delay Send" function on their emails so that the email isn't sent until the following morning or the start of the employee's next shift.

Supervisors and employers can also teach work-life balance skills as part of the workplace health and safety program and ask workers to not respond to work communications during their time off. Employers should also avoid rewarding workers who continue to work outside their designated hours. And if an employer notices this trend of continuously working outside of normal working hours it's important that they have that conversation with the employee to understand why because other factors such as workload, may need to be discussed.

Ashley: That makes sense. I know the instant response can be to want to send emails late and show that you're working hard, but it really has a ripple effect on other departments and other people in the organization.

So, these are some great suggestions. So, what about, you know, us as colleagues and co-workers, what can we do to make disconnecting easier for each other?

Riane: As co-workers, we can respect each other's efforts to disconnect by not routinely emailing or calling outside of normal working hours. And we can also model behaviors by not checking and responding to emails during our time off. And it should be clear that any communications that are sent outside of working hours do not need an immediate response unless it is a real emergency.

Ashley: That makes sense. Something I've noticed seeing more and more is that some people have in their email suffix "My working hours might be outside of your working hours", so don't feel the need to respond right away.

Well, thanks for sharing your expertise with us Rianne.

Riane: Of course. Thank you for having me.

Ashley: For other resources on disconnecting, check out our website c-c-o-h-c dot c-a and type in disconnecting.

Thanks for listening everyone. We're signing off now to fully disconnect.