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The right to disconnect

3 Minute Read

There’s no hiding from the fact that COVID19 has inflicted dramatic changes on how many of us work.

The pandemic has meant that in some businesses, those not on furlough are working at a frenetic pace to save their organisation. And in others, people are working equally as hard because business is booming.

And all this whilst many of us are working from home.

The net result of which creates a pressure to check emails, jump on video calls and  be available at all hours of the day. It’s become much harder to draw a line between work and home life.


This has re-ignited the debate about whether or not there should be a legally binding ‘right to disconnect’. If accepted into law, this would essentially ban bosses from routinely emailing or calling outside of set working hours.

I passionately believe we all have the right to switch off from work, and work more effectively as a result. I also believe that leaders and organisations have a moral responsibility to look after those in our charge as well as delivering the results that we’re accountable for.

But I’m not sure legislating in this way is the answer.


The pandemic has highlighted the fact that many of us can work effectively outside of the traditional nine-to-five routine. What’s more, many of us have enjoyed the flexibility it has afforded and are anxious about returning to the office five days a week.

Would it not be better to provide those we lead with flexibility within a framework?

And that framework could be based on the unique characteristics of each business, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all law upon the nation? Because the reality is one-size generally fits very few people well… if any.

What if we allowed people to manage their emails whenever it suits them best and at the same time made it clear there is zero expectation to respond out of core hours?


For many years I have spoken about the fact that if we, as leaders, send emails outside of core hours, we’re sending a message that says, ‘this is what you need to do to get on here’.

I no longer believe this is true.

I think a more inspiring and empowering approach is to say:


“I appreciate there is a lot more going on in your life, and mine, than work. As such, it’s totally fine for us all to manage our emails in a way that works for us.

With that, comes zero expectation to routinely respond to emails or take calls outside of our core working hours.

What’s more, I realise that to do the opposite… this may not work for you and may create more stress.”


And having created that framework, leaders must work relentlessly hard at maintaining the discipline that sits around it and ensuring their actions match their words.


There is, of course, another option.

We could respond to our emails offline or schedule them all to be sent at 9am the next day. But surely this secret emailing approach is somewhat inauthentic and unhelpful?

Imagine the anxiety that would come as a result of being on the receiving end of that every Monday morning. You’d log on at 9am and minutes later a tidal wave of emails from everyone in the company would suddenly flood your inbox.


Surely the solution lies in trusting our people, treating them like adults and demonstrating some truly human leadership?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Image by ThisisEngineering RAEng on UnSplash

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