Leaders, Encourage Your Employees To Disconnect

by Pranav Ramesh
June 21, 2022

The odds are pretty dead even that if you’re reading this, you are burned out and disengaged from your job. According to a recent study by Indeed, more than half (52%) of all respondents are feeling burned out, and more than two-thirds (67%) believe the feeling has worsened over the course of the pandemic.   

There’s no doubt it’s a rough economy to make a living in. Record high inflation has made food, gas, and housing costs skyrocket for everyday Americans. But could some relief in sight for employees from everyday job stress. The right to disconnect is an idea gaining traction across Europe and some countries are trying to build legislation around the concept in an attempt to better protect workers, especially as technology and work from home policies blur the line between home life and work life.  

Just what is the right to disconnect and why should you consider such a policy for your team? Read on to find out how you might be able to save your employees from the brink of burnout.  


Is Burn Out a Real Thing? 

The ongoing pandemic has continued to put the issue of employee burnout front and center for companies. Employers are finally starting to understand that employees who are checked out and disenfranchised are actually costing the company money, exhausting resources, and further endangering the morale of their teammates.  

Just how much is this costing employers? A Deloitte study from 2020 estimated that companies lose approximately $56 billion a year in expenses that stem from employee burnout. That staggering figure included absences, presentee-ism (employees who underperform), and costs associated with employee attrition.  

Thankfully, as more companies acknowledge the issue of job disenfranchisement, they’re also doing something about it. Mandatory time off is becoming increasingly common, but just because an employee is physically not in the office taking paid time off, it doesn’t mean that he or she is actually disconnected from work. Many employees would still be tempted to answer calls, check emails, or respond to texts. That’s not really taking time away from work to recharge.  

That’s where the “right to disconnect” comes in. The “right to disconnect” refers to an employee’s right to unplug from work during non-work hours without fear of repercussions from their employer. “Without fear of repercussion” is key in this concept. Employees must believe they don’t have to be accessible to their supervisor or their job 24/7.  

As more employers begin to take this concept of “disconnection” seriously, many are finding out that not only will it save them on costs, but it will also improve morale not just across a single team, but company-wide.  


How to Make the “Right to Disconnect” Happen for Your Employees

Once a company has made the decision to better protect work-life balance and encourage employees to disconnect, there are lots of easy and effective ways to begin.  


Set Working Hours and Share Company-wide

It really is as simple as it sounds: make it clear with your team that they should note when they are available (during set standard working hours) and when they’re not available. This can be done in the signature of an email or as a built-in feature of some products, like Google Calendar. While this is especially helpful for teams that work globally across time zones, it also serves as a good reminder to your local colleagues that you might not all share the same working hours. Remind co-workers to be respectful of their teammates’ set available working times.  


Discourage Employees from Immediate Responses

Just because an employee sees an email come through, does not mean it needs an immediate response. Often, this disrupts the productivity of other tasks while at work, and during “off hours” it only serves as a stressful reminder of the work they left behind. Plus, email responses written hurriedly, and off-the-clock, might not be well-composed. It’s a much better option to tackle that email response when an employee is back working their standard hours and in the right frame of mind to provide a clear, thoughtful response. It can also be helpful to provide employees a period that they’re expected to respond to emails within, for example, within 24 hours during a regular business week.  


Develop a Knowledge Base for Your Company

In companies with dozens or hundreds of employees, documentation isn’t just a nicety; it’s an absolute necessity. One way to decrease redundant emails is to build and maintain a strong company wiki, or knowledge base. This internal site can be used to document and share everything from onboarding processes, to how to access data sets to incident reports. Strong wikis help make employees more efficient, more autonomous, and less likely to send emails asking for help when they can find it on their own.  

The best solution for everyone is to normalize healthier work life balances for employees. Not only do the benefits add up for employees when this happens, but companies will see improvements in their bottom line when employees are engaged at work. Trying to legislate the issue is a lot more challenging than naturally developing policies to best suit employee needs.  

Once employers buy-in to the “Right to Disconnect,” it’s easy to understand how it can be implemented to benefit employees. It’s also easy to see how encouraging more of a solid work life balance benefits a company’s bottom line. Those employers who choose to ignore the warning signs of employee burnout may find themselves in a comparable situation to those employees down the road.  



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