A new law in Ontario gives employees the right to disconnect. As remote work and the hybrid office become the new norm, it can be difficult for employees to draw the line between work and their personal life. When your living room is also your office, it can be hard to turn it off. But with the Right to Disconnect law, employees are encouraged to do just that.
What is the Right to Disconnect Law?
With the right to disconnect, employees are given the right to not have the expectation to engage in work related activities outside of business hours, including answering work calls, checking emails, or responding to chats and messages. It’s designed to give workers more downtime away from work in order to support mental health, improve overall well being, and reduce burnout.
Similar laws already exist in other countries, like France, Spain, and Portugal. These laws are designed to help cut down on burnout and improve work life balance for workers. While each law is different and has its own requirements, there is precedent that laws like the new Ontario law are effective for workers.
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What Does the Law Mean for Employees?
This new law means that it’s a human right for people to have and enjoy a personal life outside of work. For remote workers who have blurred lines between work and personal spaces, this law will give them permission to create a separation and have a personal life away from their work devices. For some people, this law could be life changing, allowing them time for hobbies and family activities again.
As an employee, your company should have a written internal policy that outlines its right to disconnect policy. The law itself does not state what the right to disconnect looks like or what time employees are able to disconnect during. That is left up to each individual company.
What Does the Law Mean for Employers?
In order for an employer to comply with the Right to Disconnect law, your company will need to do a few things.
First, the law applies to companies with 25 or more employees. If that’s you, your leadership team will need to create an internal policy. This document should outline your company’s guidance for employees on disconnecting from work. The law does not specify exactly what needs to be in your policy, however, so this can look very different to each company. Because every company is unique, the law leaves room for different policies. Some things that you might want to include in your internal guidance:
The number of hours employees are required to work
Maximum hours worked laws (for Ontario, this is generally not more than 8 hours per day)
Well being hours, when employees are allowed to disconnect for their personal life
Any rules about whether an out of office notice should be turned on for email or phone messages during disconnection hours
Managers can help the company educate employees on the policy. They can share the guidance with their teams and follow up with one on one meetings to discuss questions about the policy. Managers can also have regular check-in meetings with their teams to reinforce the policy, make sure employees are not feeling pressured to stay connected, and guiding employees through challenges related to their workload and disconnection.
While an employer can only do so much to encourage employees to take advantage of this new law – and some employees may not – the employer should make sure every single employee is aware of the law and the company’s policy. Having current and new employees sign a document stating they are aware of the internal policy is a good way to ensure that employees are properly notified of the policy document. That’s all an employer can do to comply with the law.
How Employers Can Communicate with Employees during Disconnection Hours
It may be difficult for some employers to always follow this new law. Sometimes, leaders may have a message they want to send to their employees, but it is during their set disconnection hours. There are a few ways companies can handle this.
Scheduled emails: If you have a message you want to share but you don’t want to interrupt employees’ personal time, you can write and schedule an email to send during business hours. You can also send the message now, but that runs the risk of an employee checking their email and seeing a manager or other company leader’s name and feeling the need to reply. Scheduling emails will help cut down on that pressure by not even sending it during the off hours.
Business SMS messages: For certain messages that need to be sent during disconnection timeframes, you can use a business texting service to mass text your employees. This can be helpful for delayed starts, closed facilities, or schedule changes. You can also use your business texting to schedule messages to send closer to work hours or even during work hours if it’s not an urgent message.
Make a note to yourself: If you don’t want to schedule an email or text, or if you would prefer to call the employee, make a note to yourself to follow up during business hours. You can make a note in your computer, on paper, or in your calendar. This will remind you who you need to talk to and what the topic is, so you can follow your company’s disconnection guidelines but still get the job done.
Use TxtSquad for Workplace Communication
If you want to improve your company communication while still following the right to disconnect laws, learn about the benefits of business SMS for workplace communication. The features of texting services like TxtSquad allow you to manage your contact lists, schedule messages for specified times, and have two way conversations with your staff. Get a free trial or schedule a demo to learn how TxtSquad can help your company make sure your teams stay in compliance with the new employee protection laws.