The right to disconnect is a very current issue in the workplace. Although employees feel a certain pressure to stay “hooked” to their electronic devices even after work hours, companies can implement practices that help disconnect.
In Quebec there is no law governing not being connected to work after office hours, although the issue is being considered in many quarters.
In fact, it might be interesting to draw on what is being done elsewhere to implement good disconnection practices as an employer.
For example, in Quebec the Ministry of Justice and several companies provide their employees with a cell phone and computer that is only used for work.
In France, the JLO Group, a pioneer in the field, has been implementing a weekend monitoring system since 2015 so that after 8pm no work emails can be sent or received during these periods. An automatic message is sent to customers referring them to the next day or Monday.
Also in France, PriceMinister has “email-free Fridays”. Executives are invited to communicate with their staff by other means, such as by organizing meals or meetings. After the day ends, no email follows home, thanks to this practice.
An increasingly discussed issue
The “right to disconnect” is increasingly on the agenda of both companies and governments. This principle, by which an employee has the right to not be connected to digital work tools outside work hours, has even become law in some countries. This is the case in France, the first country to include the right to disconnect in the law with the El Khomri law, which obliges companies with more then 50 employees to have provisions for disconnection outside the office.
Here, Québec Solidaire MNA Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois tabled a similar bill with the National Assembly in 2018 on the right to disconnect, proposing “that an employer must establish […] a policy to disconnect outside work hours, applicable to all its employees.”
“I think that in general we need to change the relationship with work entirely,” says digital expert Nellie Brière. She especially believes that unions could play a role to help companies implement good disconnection practices. “A work culture has to be developed in which business communication is not done outside work hours,” she explains. “Because more than a digital issue it’s also a social issue…”