Right To Disconnect or Wrong
As we kickstart the new year with new COVID-19 challenges, companies are now faced with transitioning back to remote working. Although working remotely has been a saving grace for many employers, the lines between work and home seem to have become even blurrier. As we collectively negotiate the borders between work life and home life, the right of employees to disconnect after working hours has become a hot topic worldwide. A recent survey suggests 60 per cent of Canadian workers want employers to put more emphasis on work-life balance and wellness, combined with more flexibility in their work hours.
In November, the government of Ontario passed the Working for Workers Act, requiring any business employing 25 or more people to have a written policy regarding employees’ right to disconnect from their job at the end of the day. These workplace policies could include, for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working. The real answer, however, is not legislation but changes to workplace culture, with a focus on building trust. Although this new era of ambiguity can make this difficult, employers and their employees can work together to build mutual trust and in turn create an environment that supports work-life balance.
Trust Forms A Work-Life Balance
The “Great Resignation” put a renewed emphasis on employee engagement and, in turn, internal communications. The first step toward establishing a culture of trust and respect in the workplace is to build effective communication. This begins with establishing a communication etiquette for the entire organization, including clear guidelines on choosing appropriate business communication channels. Employers can benefit by providing coaching to their employees on what should be communicated through which channel, whether it’s email, “work chat”, or a business-supplied phone line. For example, having a conversation by email, when a phone call would be more efficient, is very ineffective from a time-management standpoint. An email can be used effectively as a reinforcement tool to follow-up on a process or memo/policy, and can also be mass-communicated to more than one person.
Another key component of an effective internal communication plan is to establish clear boundaries among team members. These boundaries should include expectations around work hours, and limiting the amount of cross-over between work and employees’ personal lives. For example, a manager should assure employees that it’s okay not to respond to an email or text received after work hours, nor should they expect others to respond to their after-hours messages; such communication can sit in the queue until the next business day.
An intentional internal communications plan can help organizations manage the ever-growing impacts of a changing work environment. This is a tremendous opportunity for companies to rethink how they communicate to an often forgotten audience—their own employees.
Flexible Work Revolution
Businesses looking to acquire top talent need to take into account the growing demand for flexible work models and environments. Offering a competitive salary may no longer be enough to make a company an employer of choice. When it comes to choosing where to work, an organization’s position on flexibility has become a make-or-break factor for a lot of workers—millennials in particular. People prefer flexible working arrangements for a number of reasons, from being able to spend more time on hobbies or with loved ones to cutting down on commuting and finding more downtime.
The flexible work revolution serves so many purposes, and everyone has a different take. For those who enjoy variety, it will offer just that. Those whose focus is on wellbeing can work less and enjoy the balance the revolution will provide. From a profitability standpoint, much remains to be seen. Currently there are few systems that can help employers embrace the flexible workforce, or to quickly onboard and offboard employees who work remotely. Training, scheduling, sheer staff availability, and many other factors present significant challenges—but a high-tech solution might very well be on the horizon.
Ultimately, organizations will find that the key to offering employees flexibility comes down to effective communication. Recognizing workers’ right to switch off at the end of the day will make for a healthier company culture and a happier, more productive workforce—and that’s always good for business.