Bosses have been warned not to routinely call or email staff outside of regular office hours, to avoid causing burnout or mental health issues.
With over a third of UK workers doing at least some of their job from home last year, and many companies considering a ‘hybrid’ form of working from now on, businesses are having to look at how they manage the changing face of day-to-day work.
The initial concern that working from home would cause a decline in productivity has now been superseded by a new concern – employees may actually be working too much.
Without the ability to leave work behind and easily compartmentalise, many feel the need to be contactable at all hours of the day. There’s also a concern among some staff members that emails from bosses need to be answered promptly, regardless of the time of day (or indeed night) these arrive.
The result could be mass burnout, as workers have no opportunity to disconnect.
In response, unions have called for strict measures to prevent this from happening. One option is to simply set out times when bosses are not able to contact members of staff, or periods when those employees are entitled to ‘go dark’. Other measures include adding notes to email footers saying that no urgent response is required or expected.
The most nuclear option involves automatically deleting any emails that come in outside of regular office hours.
These concerns were raised after an ONS report found the average worker to be putting in six hours of unpaid overtime every week during the pandemic.
Andrew Pakes, of trade union Prospect, told the BBC “While digital technology has kept us safe during the pandemic, for millions of people, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office, making it harder to fully switch off.”
The union has called for British firms to follow their French and Irish counterparts in making the ‘right to disconnect’ a legal requirement. The success of this bid is expected to come later this year, when the government publishes its new Employment Bill, expected before the end of 2021.