The Right to Disconnect: 5 Places to Look To for Inspiration

The Right to Disconnect: 5 Places to Look To for Inspiration

A well-rested brain is more creative than one that has been answering emails all through supper. A real break is stimulating, generates ideas, and increases productivity. So why is it so hard to put into practice? Why is it that the line between our private and professional lives can sometimes be so thin?

Since working from home has become so widespread, there has been growing interest in formalizing the right to disconnect. This refers to the right to put your job 100% aside at the end of the workday: no emails, no Teams calls, no texts. When the day is over, it’s truly over.

A message here and there might not do any damage, but the accumulation of these connected moments takes its toll. One of the risks? Professional burnout caused by excessive stress and fatigue. It’s why the importance of disconnecting from your responsibilities should not be taken lightly.

How can you change the stakes and protect both your own energy and that of your team? Some companies already have rules about this. And several countries have passed laws to safeguard the right to disconnect in the workplace. How can we use this to take our holidays to the next level?

A look at 5 places areas where the right to disconnect is protected.

1. France: Leading the Way on This Matter

A pioneer if ever there was one, France didn’t wait for hybrid work to be fashionable before legislating on the issue. Adding the right to disconnect to its labour laws in 2017 was a world first.  

The issues of hyperconnectivity were just beginning to be talked about when the French government advocated for work-life balance for its population by requiring companies with more than 50 employees to implement measures to respect breaks and holidays.

However, with its lack of strict rules, the law has left things somewhat vague, allowing people to interpret it as they see fit. Nonetheless, France remains the country that started the conversation about the right to disconnect.

2. Portugal: The Strictest Place

Portugal has taken a tougher approach to protecting the private lives of its workforce: it is illegal for employers to contact their staff outside of working hours. 

Because the law came into effect in 2021, it can be assumed that the pandemic played a role in the discussions. And to encourage companies to comply with the rules, the government included penalties. The fine for what is considered a “serious administrative offence” can be as high as 9,600 euros (12,500 Canadian dollars).

3. Spain

Like France, Spain protects the right to disconnect with a law focusing on workplace policies. Since 2018, employers are required to have a charter or collective agreement that addresses respecting time off.

Spain’s distinctive feature? The law applies to all companies, regardless of their size. Recently, the government even adopted a decree to respond to the new challenges of teleworking. An employee-employer agreement with a section on the right to disconnect is now mandatory.

4. Italy

In Italy, it’s all about individual agreements between each person and their employer. One of the elements to be included involves measures to allow “disconnection from professional digital tools.”

In 2017, when the law was introduced, it only protected hybrid workers, those known as smart workers. A few years later, the government had no choice but to adapt and expand its definition of telework.

5. Ontario: The Canadian Example

And in Canada? Ontario is setting an example with its new requirements on the right to disconnect. As of recently, companies with more than 25 employees must have a written policy on disconnecting from work.

Experts are already arguing that this step is less significant than it seems, especially because it lacks clarity and sanctions. Others believe that this move by the Ontario government is the beginning of a changing mindset in the country.

Ontario companies had until June 2022 to rewrite their policy, so it’s something to keep tabs on in the next few years!

It’s clear that the approaches are different but the intention is the same: strengthen and protect the boundary between work and private life. We can all assert our right to disconnect, but respecting breaks and holiday time remains a collective effort. Companies would do well to draw more inspiration from existing laws and policies to ensure the long-term well-being of their employees.

So, what time do we disconnect today?

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