Although healthcare communications has long been a sector which has embraced hybrid working, it's no secret that since the pandemic a wave of businesses across industries have adopted the hybrid work style, with more and more professionals working from home at least one day a week.
However, people are beginning to question whether a rise in hybrid roles has contributed to a disintegration in work life balance, as employers contact teams out of hours. How can you insist on regimented work/life balance in a hybrid role, and could stricter legislation force businesses to accept these boundaries?
The Right to Switch Off is no longer a catchy phrase, but a hot-topic for business insiders who are discussing the frustrations of teams who feel that there is a need for a legal enforcement as to when employers can- and more importantly can't- contact you. Angela Rayner (UK Labour deputy leader) spoke with the Financial Times and reiterated that the Labour party would "look at how to implement this practice" following potential success in the next general election. Legislation like this already exists in many other countries, most notably in France where legislation was enacted in 2017 to combat an "always on" culture; giving workers the right to ignore business communications outside working hours.
What would this look like if this principle is introduced in the UK?
Implementing a "right to switch off" would provide a legal backing that would stop employers from contacting employees outside of working hours, such as in the evenings, on weekends and whilst on annual leave. It would also tackle the often unspoken pressure employees feel to respond to these communications, by insisting that employees following this rile cannot be punished through denied promotions.
What could the impacts be?
This legislation would be particularly impactful for hybrid workers; one of the downsides of working from home is that it can be difficult to draw clear boundaries between work and leisure hours, with calls and meetings often bleeding into allocated lunchtimes and evenings. As such, it is hardly surprising that managers also struggle to define these boundaries, and may occasionally lose track of time, send emails late into the evening, or find themselves catching up on emails over the weekend.
However, this potential legislation could perhaps be most impactful when referring to the same unspoken pressure felt by employees. Whilst businesses can claim that they operate solely within rigid working hours, many line managers often expect- particularly of junior members of the team- that they take calls and meetings outside of working hours if necessary. Refusing to do so, whilst not condoned by HR practices, can result in managers deeming employees less invested or motivated.
How can you develop clear boundaries when working from home?
With this potential legislation in the future and increasing buzz about the possible impacts, it is important that you form clear boundaries, especially when working from home. Communication is key. Whilst it may seem simple, many people feel uncomfortable discussing their boundaries with higher ups. It can be helpful, however, to implement a strategy for how you clearly communicate when you are away from your desk.
- Let your line manager know when you are stepping away from your desk so that it is clear to them when you are taking your scheduled breaks.
- Utilise shared documents, drives and calendars to their full potential by marking your calls, meetings and out of office times; this will help to ensure that your manager can see, without contacting you, when you are available.
- Don't be afraid to be clear with your manager when your scheduled breaks are. If an unplanned conversation is taking place, politely articulate that you have scheduled your break for this time and are happy to discuss when you return to your desk.
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