France recently passed a law that allows employees to “switch off” after work, and prevents their bosses from contacting them via smartphones or email to do what is essentially unpaid work form home. The law is based on the idea that a healthy balance between work and life makes for happier, healthier, and overall more productive workers. Inspired by France, a recent study of companies and organizations in the United Kingdom has found that only about half of them make any effort to help their employees switch off.
The rise of smartphones and other communication technology has created a world in which many people aren’t finished working after work. People feel a pressure to always be available, willing and able to do more work here and there to keep their bosses happy. But but the bias against switching off has a number of negative effects, leaving those people less rested and more worried about the future, since they tend to think that switching off and actually relaxing will cost them their jobs.
“Our findings clearly show that organizations are not helping their staff accommodate to the changing world of work which is likely to have a negative impact on their well-being, their work-life balance, and their effectiveness,” says researcher Professor Gail Kinman of the University of Bedfordshire. “Many individuals we surveyed clearly feel under great pressure not to switch off, leading to intense pressure, poorer performance, and worry about what the immediate future holds.”
The researchers behind the study would like to see this change. Whether it comes from lawmakers or the employers themselves, the issue of work-life balance has to be addressed. As economies and industries change and have to be more responsive to survive, we’ve used that as a justification for essentially undoing the work labor unions undertook to ensure that workers did have time off to relax and have their own lives.
The eight-hour workday, weekends away from work, and a number of other early labor achievements were specifically sought in order to create a work-life balance, instead of forcing workers to live in a world where they were expected to work 12- or 16-hour days. But those long shifts are starting to creep back into play, and what’s worse, people aren’t being paid when they’re off the clock, making all this even more harmful.
What about you? Do you have a hard time switching off when you’re done with your workday? Does your employer encourage you to have a good work-life balance and stay away from your email and other tech related to your job, or is there an expectation that you’ll always be available? Do you have any ideas about how employers can help their employees switch off when their day is done?