It’s been a little over three months since Ontario made it illegal for bosses to contact their employees after hours. Outlined by the Working for Workers Act, 2021, the new act aims to create a better work-life balance for Ontarians by giving them the “right to disconnect” concept that’s exploded out of the pandemic.
But as remote-first work environments are normalized, leaving your people alone may not be enough to stop them from checking their messages or engaging in work after hours. So, how do you get them to disconnect? We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you out.
Why disconnection is important
49% of full-time employees in Canada say their workload is "much or somewhat more" today than pre-pandemic.
While employers have more access to their people than ever before, the lack or absence of uninterrupted personal time is detrimental to employee productivity and overall happiness. This may lead to disengagement, poor work performance, and possible burnout.
The verdict? No matter where you sit at a company, whether it's your first job or sixth job, we've all been there – you just aren't capable of producing quality work if you're feeling like you're always on the clock.
Out with “work-life balance”
The term “work-life balance” has been tossed around quite a bit as lines between work and play remain blurred for a lot of us, but is it outdated?
Let’s face it, every person’s definition of balance is different. Especially as heading to the office everyday is no longer the norm, it’s unrealistic to treat ‘work’ and ‘life’ as entirely separate and static.
In a recent issue of Think with Humi, our Director of People Operations, Andrea Bartlett, introduced the concepts “work-life negotiation” and “work-life engagement” to the conversation, and how people leaders can boost employee engagement in remote work environments. Click here to check out the full issue.
How to get employees to disconnect from work after hours
1. Offer flexibility
So if “work-life balance” is an outdated term, does the “right to disconnect” legislation actually help employees? Well, it has its limitations.
The Working for Workers Act, 2021 focuses on specific hours employees are free to disconnect, meaning there’s a window during which they must be accessible. But establishing working hours fails to recognize that set workdays aren’t always possible from home, and the value of today’s white-collar talent is based largely on output.
If possible, let your people set their own hours. Giving employees the autonomy to choose when they work will allow them to engage and disengage with work on their own terms and find balance. At Humi, we get that 9-5 isn’t realistic. We offer Humigos flex hours so that they can get their work done when they’re most productive and take care of those mid-day commitments.
2. Lead by example
If managers aren’t unplugging when the workday comes to an end, how likely are their people?
Want your team to sign off after their set hours? Schedule that email tomorrow. Want them to take a lunch break everyday? Step away and enjoy lunch as well. Want them to stop checking Slack and their email in the evenings? Delete the apps off your phone and encourage them to do the same.
Modeling how to disconnect is just as helpful for managers and leaders as it is for your team. Leadership needs to rest and recharge just as much as everyone else. By setting an example, you’ll reap the benefits of disconnecting for yourself, your team, and the entire company.
3. Give them an extra push
It’s tough for some employees to separate themselves from their work, completely shut themselves off, and tune into their personal life – some may need an extra push.
If you want your people to disconnect, be proactive in helping them break the habit. Offer incentives for them to go offline and disconnect. If you have an employee recognition program, consider rewarding employees with perks like extra vacation days for their hard work, for example. Your people are likely to disconnect if they have a reason to, so be proactive and give them the motivation to do so.
At Humi, we offer unlimited personal days for our people to recharge when they need to, so that they’re able to be the best they can be in and outside of the workplace.
4. Set expectations and encourage boundaries
It’s important your employees know that engaging in their personal lives isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged. Show them you mean this by respecting their boundaries.
We’ve all been there. Our manager sends us a message at the tail end of the day or after hours and we feel the need to give them an immediate response. Especially in the midst of the great resignation, it’s possible another layer of your employees’ inability to log off has to do with worries surrounding job security.
Touch base with your people regularly to let them know when they’re doing a good job, they don’t need to push beyond their limits to prove themselves, and that they are expected to disconnect to stay motivated and productive at work.
5. Make team building a regular thing
Team building isn’t only for when your company is having trouble with morale or motivation – it can be crucial to overall company success.
Start with adding small activities that promote team bonding to your weekly meetings, like silly icebreaker and reflection questions. Investing in regular team building activities, whether big or small, will help sustain cooperation and trust among team members, and is a necessary foundation to getting your people to establish healthy boundaries with work.
Productivity is important, but it’s unrealistic to expect your people to be on all the time. Everything you do (or don’t do) is the filter through which your employees gauge how to spend their time. The small steps you take to create a company culture of openness, belonging, and trust is what will keep your people and your business thriving.
Learn more with Humi
If you’re a people leader, a smooth, seamless performance management system is key in keeping a pulse on your team and ensuring they are happy and engaged. Book some time with our team to learn more about how Humi can help.
For insight into relevant and raw people challenges, and the tools you need to continuously shape the future of work, subscribe to Think with Humi – your number one people newsletter written by a real HR expert and Humi’s Director of People Operations, Andrea Bartlett.