Over a third of business leaders such as CEOs (36%) admit they’d vote against the introduction of a law within the UK that would protect an employee’s right ‘to switch off’, similar to the law in place in France, a new study has revealed.
One in seven remain unsure (14%).
The data which was compiled by the experts at iCompario surveyed 2,000 UK employees around their eagerness to follow in France’s footsteps and introduce similar employee right ‘to switch off’ laws here in the UK.
The legislation, which was introduced in France back in 2017, bans employers from expecting their employees to engage in communications, such as emails outside of working hours.
The data found that substantial two thirds (66%) of UK workers would support a similar law being introduced in the UK.
Almost ten percent more women than men support the introduction of this law (70% vs. 62%).
Brits most in support of bringing in the legislation around an employee’s right to disconnect are those within executive level roles (72%).
As of 21.8.2022, a petition from Megaphone.org.uk calling for the government to introduce a “right to disconnect” for all UK workers in the new employment bill, has gained 16,828 signatures¹.
iCompario also quizzed UK employees around the pressure they feel to be contactable and respond to emails when not in work, as well as how easily they are able to ‘switch off’ during time off.
Interestingly, despite the number of those in business leadership roles opposed to the introduction of a ‘right to disconnect’ law, more than half of those in senior roles feel ‘very pressured’ to check work emails and correspondence outside of their contracted work hours (53%).
Overall, 3.5 million UK workers ‘feel very pressured’ to check their work emails and other job-related correspondence outside of their contracted working hours, with a further 6.5million ‘feeling some pressure’ to do so.
Just a third of those surveyed (33%) ‘don’t feel any pressure’ to check emails when not in work.
A further 1.8 million UK employees admit they put pressure on themselves to do this, meaning it doesn’t come from their employer.
According to the findings UK employees take an average of 5.7 days to truly switch off when out of office, but with typical holidays abroad for Brits lasting just 8.7 days on average³, the time spent relaxing reduces substantially to just 3 days on average.
Downtime disappears completely when you consider UK adults spend just 3.3 days when holidaying on home soil.
One in seven admit they’re never able to switch off (14%) while on holiday.
Almost of half of those in administrator and assistant roles (46%) ‘don’t feel pressured’ to check emails during non-working hours and are also the group able to switch off the quickest, taking just 3.8 days on average to do so.
The findings also revealed the average time taken for people in CEO or business owner type roles take just over a week to switch off completely (7.5 days), however, a fifth of those in CEO roles or similar are unable to ever switch off (21%).
With a recent report revealing that the cost to employers of poor mental health amongst their workforce totalled around £56billion in 2020-2021³ the need to fully switch off and benefit from a proper break from work has never been more essential.
Sadly, it seems no time is sacred amongst the nation’s hard-working employees, with three quarters (76%) checking their work emails from their personal devices at least once a day whether sick from work, caring for unwell loved ones, and even when attending an appointment at the doctors or dentists.
Equally, three quarters (76%) also admitted to checking workplace correspondence over the break for Christmas and other religious ceremonies, and over weekends, evenings, early mornings.
The survey found that those who show the most restraint regarding checking work emails outside of working hours via their personal devices (e.g., phone, laptop, tablet, etc.), were able to switch off the most easily (42%).
Whilst, on average, a quarter of those who check their personal tech devices to check their work emails every time they use them are never able to switch off (25%).
This backs up the notion that employees who constantly check their work emails never truly switch off, and really enforces the act of allowing yourself a regular break from work and the comms that come along with it as an essential step in being able to relax properly.
With this in mind, Kerry Fawcett, Digital Director at iCompario shared some key tips for employers to help their employees switch off and disconnect from work completely when outside of their working hours:
Set a specific time to ‘clock off’ each day – and stick to it!
Whilst anyone working in a busy environment will have days where they may have to work a few extra hours here or there, it’s imperative that this doesn’t become a regular occurrence. By encouraging staff to set and work to a schedule, and not to revisit workplace correspondence outside of working hours, over time a good routine will be formed whereby your employees first instinct isn’t to reach for a phone or laptop and “just check in” outside of working hours.
Where possible, use work only phones
By providing your staff with work-only technology such as a phone or laptop, it becomes much easier to draw a firm line separating a busy working life from a personal one. And whilst it may not be feasible for all companies to offer this to staff, doing so can make a huge difference in being able to close the door on your work life at the end of the day.
Encourage them to uninstall work-related apps
If this is not possible, try asking your employees if they will uninstall work-related apps on their personal phone. This takes away the temptation to check in on work emails unnecessarily outside of work, something which would benefit the 76% of people from our survey who find themself doing so on every occasion.
Turn off push notifications
If uninstalling apps completely is not feasible, you may want to consider encouraging staff to at least turn off push notifications for apps related to the workplace. They may still wish to continue to check emails when not in work from time to time, but by turning off notifications it will lead them not to think about it quite as often as they won’t immediately be alerted to them. This will help to minimalise disruptions to their personal life, and in turn, will help to break the habit of reading and responding to emails as soon as they land.
Stop sending emails after 5pm
One simple but extremely effective method is to limit the emails being sent for work to specific hours of the day. The reason this tactic is so effective is due to the roll-on effects it can have on other colleagues. By stopping sending emails past 5pm, it gives others less of a reason to respond into the evening, thus eventually breaking the cycle.
Kerry went on to say, These findings have highlighted the need for employers to make sure their giving staff the freedom to be able to switch off outside of work. The pandemic changed the way many businesses operate meaning that accessing emails and instant messages on your personal device became common place with the increase in remote working.
“Whilst our study offers fresh data on attitudes toward the right to switch off debate, it’s also telling the amount of time it takes workers to switch off. It’s incumbent on managers to work with their employees to ensure that there isn’t a risk of burnout through being unable to relax after work.”
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