The race does not stop: long and exhaustive ‘digital’ working hours

iPads, iPhones, other smartphones or tablets allow remote access to various issues of everyday life for example remote conference calls or constant communication over email regarding business matters. Today, employers and employees alike, literally and inevitably ‘take work home’ rather than switching off at a given time and indulging in personal and private life.

A recent study by The British Psychological Society has declared that this widespread habit of staying ‘switched on’ outside work hours can be extremely detrimental to personal wellbeing. The British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology presented a report at the annual conference in Glasgow confirming this.

France has already implemented a rule, which safeguards employees from emails interfering with life outside work hours, before 9am and after 6pm. The deal between employers’ federation and unions implement a rule that allows workers to not check messages or emails on work accounts. Furthermore, firms cannot pressure staff to do so either.

Volkswagen followed France by expressing similar concerns about ‘digital working hours’. VW’s servers stop email communication 30 minutes before the end of a shift and start half an hour before the beginning of a workday. Germany’s labour ministry has also followed in these footsteps.

The UK also has Working Time Regulations, which protects workers from exhaustive hours; however, this regulation does not cover out of hours emails, messages or calls. Whilst a ban might benefit some sectors of employment, it will take a toll on others. For instance, lawyers and analysts deal with different time zones at the same time, one might be keeping an eye on Wall Street as well as the London Stock Exchange, with a 5 hours time difference, it is hard to disconnect completely and not feel its impact on profits for the company and its development.

Whilst efficiency is improved, researchers observed that remaining available for work after hours, increased stress, which has its negative multiplier affect on work and life balancing issues. The report has driven attention to 24/7 access to work and insists on rethinking and redesigning such patterns to maximize benefits to employees and most importantly, to avoid potential harmful side effects.





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