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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Does the ‘right to disconnect’ have a future in the workplace?

Work has been transformed

We all know that technology has accelerated how we look for a job, apply and even get interviewed. I have written before about how key leadership roles can be appointed without anyone meeting in a traditional face-to-face environment. This has led to a number of exciting developments. However, the use of technology means that expectations are quite different. A recent report from the Autonomy think tank has suggested that these changes mean many people are experiencing an epidemic of hidden overtime.

What impact does your work life imbalance have?

Yes, it’s emotive language but think about the number of unpaid hours you may well have put in since working from home. Recognise the scenario where you grab a cup of coffee and say, ‘I won’t be a moment, I’ll just glance through my messages.’ This may seem trivial and perhaps only takes a couple of minutes but often we spend far longer than we might have anticipated. When we don’t switch off mentally that can have a huge effect on both mental and physical wellbeing, not to mention relationships and family life. Photo: Pier Monzon

Many of us are happy to go above and beyond for the sake of our company and our careers

Yet home working does actually have potential negative health impacts and I imagine that lots of people have experienced feelings of being overwhelmed, being unable to relax or switch off and an element of emotional distress at certain times. Talking to colleagues we have all benefited from taking time off this summer and removing ourselves from our home/ work environment. I went to Wales and was unable to get a signal and therefore felt liberated. Having spent this time away I realise just how many hours I put into my work. One of my marketing team said that returning home from holiday felt like a joy whereas up until that point she was heartily sick of her home environment. Photo: Carl Heyerdahl

Of course, if you are a solopreneur then taking time off is another thing altogether

However, it must be said that it’s hard to draw from the creative well without refilling it and maybe a ‘right to disconnect’ is an example of what contemporary employment legislation should look like. In fact, the Covid epidemic really has given us an opportunity to think again about legacy practices and reappraise what we want from the work experience. After all, we are capable of doing things far more quickly than in the past. Who remembers dictating a letter, then sending it to the typing pool, waiting for it to be typed, proofed, sending back for amends, signing, sending it to the post and then waiting seven days for an answer! It sounds Dickensian! We can create amazing documents and publications, undertake online interviews etc. so the nature of work has changed and how we manage workload and teams also needs to be revised accordingly, wouldn't you agree? But what happens if you are a CEO? Should things change for you? Photo Michael Dziedzic

We are involved in recruiting for leadership roles

Our work includes searching for significant leadership team members. Therefore, I was wondering whether a CEO should be indispensable or whether s/he needs to be more team leader than ‘boss’. Contemporary work practices and management style may need a more hands off approach with management achieved with other things other than presenteeism. You can be indispensable in one sense by being the figurehead, the person that is creative and to whom you are accountable. A CEO should help build a team that can, to all intents and purposes, manage without 24/7 oversight. After all, we must all protect ourselves to remain fresh and effective. Photo: Joshua Hibbert

Do we need clearer boundaries?

Will Stronge, Director of Research at Autonomy, thinks that the long-term impact of the Covid pandemic has “accelerated the need to create much clearer boundaries between work-life and home-life”. It also seems desirable to think about what is done when we function within a modern workplace. Work is part of our lives, but one aspect. When did compromising families, responsibilities, or things we enjoy, to meet employer expectations become mandatory? Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leaders goes as far as to say that it’s ‘not a sustainable way to run an economy. Many good businesses want to see these sorts of protections guaranteed to workers across the board.’

You might be dismissive

Yet retention is a significant aspect of staffing, and it costs a firm far more to recruit than retain staff. Flogging staff until they crack is not an appropriate management style. We have seen how important the post hire process has been and it is becoming increasingly significant as part of the total hiring process. Therefore ‘the right to disconnect’ may come sooner rather than later. Watch this space. Photo: Becca Lavin

Meanwhile if you’d like to discuss your leadership recruitment needs and how to market your opportunity effectively then do give me a call. I would be delighted to chat through your requirements in a confidential and without further obligation. I look forward to speaking with you. To arrange a meeting please click here.


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