The Victorian Police have recently introduced a ‘right to disconnect’ clause into their enterprise agreement to limit unnecessary contact with employees outside their working hours.

This clause states that managers and supervisors can only contact employees outside of work hours during emergencies or if the employee can receive compensation for their time. This ‘groundbreaking’ clause specifies that managers must respect employees’ leave periods and rest days. First introduced in France, the right to disconnect law was passed in 2017, many countries have since followed with this being Australia’s first instance.

This clause is designed to reduce ‘availability creep’, employees responding to work requests out of hours as well as feeling obligated to be available all the time. This can result in constant checking of work emails, feeling guilty for not working on days off or simply not switching off and working outside paid hours.

Victoria Police are encouraging their staff to prioritise recharging and spending quality time outside of work. They are empowered to foster a healthy work environment with clear boundaries. Employees can be contacted in the event of an emergency, outside of this, employees can be paid an ‘availability allowance’ if they are contacted out of hours. This means that if a manager contacts an employee for a non-emergency such as swapping shifts or work information, the employee will be compensated.

The right to disconnect is becoming increasingly important as new technology allows us to be connected to our work 24/7. It is crucial that people working in psychologically demanding professions like first responders can recover and debrief outside work.

This change can also be influential in other industries. Employee burnout and fatigue can influence company safety, culture and decision making. Organisations that value employee’s time away from work to destress and promote a sustainable work-life balance will see positive effects on culture, productivity, and engagement. At one point employees stop being productive and efficient, having them ‘on tap’ all the time is unhelpful for the employees and the organisation.

So how do we avoid availability creep? Organisation leaders and managers play a key role in this. Leaders who overtly overwork, taking calls and emails at all times of the day set the tone for their organisation. This can negatively impact employees who may feel obligated to keep checking their phone for emails, causing anxiety or difficulty sleeping.

Utilising features like delay delivering emails when working out of hours or including taglines in email signatures “I am working flexibly, I do not expect you to read or respond outside of working hours” can help.

The right to disconnect is an innovative way to promote employee wellbeing in today’s digital 24/7 culture.  For more organisational culture and management advice contact us on (08) 9316 9896, or email enquiries@processworx.com.au.

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Written by Danielle McNamee

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