How can HR support employees’ right to switch off?

The pandemic blurred the lines between work and personal life like never before. Overnight our homes became our offices and switching off at the end of the working day became increasingly difficult.

Many of us were unprepared for this shift. Although many industries have successfully worked remotely for the last 18 months and are more equipped than ever to continue doing so, the boundaries of where and when work life ends and home life begins remains unclear for many.

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The situation has become such a concern that one in four employers are now considering introducing 'right to disconnect' policies to help staff keep their home and work lives separate.

There is a key role for HR to play here in setting boundaries and ensuring that managers and senior leadership uphold these values.


Set out new rules of engagement

It is important that businesses look to implement initiatives to encourage switching off, or even go as far as to centrally disconnect technology to help employees do so, removing the expectation that employees should be working after the day is over. Thereby creating a culture where employees feel free to disconnect without concern that this will negatively impact their reputation or career progression opportunities.

France has long been leading the way in terms of prioritising the mental health and wellbeing of employees over and above the employers where under the Right to Disconnect law, employees are not obliged to take calls or read emails related to work during their time off. 

With governmental support within the UK for the same style of working construct, we can expect to see similar changes implemented in the near future.


The digital employee experience

Sitting alongside clearer guidance and policy is an opportunity for HR to improve the hybrid-working experience. As we move on from full-time remote working, employees are going to increasingly expect a business perk to be 'the right to switch off', with employee wellbeing at the forefront of mind.

As such, HR needs to put measuring the digital employee experience at the top of their priority list.

If organisations are to remain competitive in attracting and retaining talent, it is imperative for HR departments to leverage technology to measure, and therefore improve, the employee experience (EX).

This can be through regular check-ins and pulse surveys that are automatically scheduled for every month.

Managers should also be equipped with the right technology to ensure they have all the information to tell them which employees have been online for too long or consistently have meetings outside of core hours.

They can then become aware of signs of overwork and assist in preventing feelings of isolation and loneliness, and be directed to take a bolder approach to switch off IT outside of core hours.

For many, the success of full-time remote working has been the silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it is in the interests of employers to ensure that employees are not working excessive hours which can detriment their health and wellbeing and taint this new working style. By setting out clear, new rules of engagement and having the right HR technology, employees will have the right to switch off and a clear distinction between home life and work life.


Ivan Harding is CEO and co-founder of Applaud