Do you and your staff regularly check email and answer calls and messages over the weekend and during evenings after work? Ever feel like few of you truly disconnect from work, even when you’re supposed to be having dinner with family or on vacation?
If so, you might be interested in a new law in France that reflects the growing sense that employees in the digital age can’t disconnect from work. The new regulation there requires employers to set formal policies to keep work from encroaching on employees’ off time, including laying out hours, generally in the evening and during the weekend, when employees should not send or answer emails.
While it’s unlikely we’d see such a law here in the U.S., at least any time soon, it’s worth thinking about whether there’s pressure on your team to be hyper-connected outside of work and whether you have a role to play in addressing that.
Here are some signs that your team might need to disconnect more:
- You send an email at midnight and get a reply five minutes later.
- You come into the office early to get some work done without interruptions and your in-box has already filled up with messages sent from your team members the night before.
- You get the distinct sense that people are checking work email as soon as they wake up in the morning and as the last thing they do before they go to sleep at night.
- When a team member goes on vacation, there’s not much difference in her workflow, because she keeps everything moving from afar.
If any of this sounds familiar, or if you otherwise spot signs of all-hours digital addiction on your team, consider trying the following:
- When roles and workload allow it, explicitly tell people that you don’t expect them to remain connected outside of work hours.
- If you notice someone staying connected to work through technology 24/7 when their role and their work doesn’t require it, name what you’re seeing and ask if they’re feeling pressure to do that, and what you can do to help them disconnect.
- Know that people will take their cues from you, so pay attention to the habits you’re modeling. If you regularly email late at night and from vacations, people may infer that they’re expected to do the same, no matter how earnestly you tell them that they’re not.
- If you do write emails at night, save them as drafts and wait until the next morning to send them, unless it’s truly an emergency.
- Pay attention to your staff’s use of vacation time. If someone hasn’t had a real vacation in a year or more, ask how you can help them carve out time to truly get away.
- If someone doesn’t truly need to be hyper-connected to work outside of normal work hours, you might even suggest they consider removing their work email account from their phone – or at least turning it off on the weekends.
Of course, complicating matters, it’s also worth recognizing that some people like the flexibility of being able to work odd hours. You don’t want to frustrate and demoralize people by denying them to work in the ways they prefer, all in the name of improving their quality of life, so be willing to work with people to figure out systems that work for them but still ensure that they get real time away from working and thinking about working.