• Peter Bateman
    165
    “Should employees have the right to turn off their devices?”

    This question came up at a conference today. Call me an old fuddy-duddy (my daughters would if they had ever heard of the expression) but my first thought was: wow, has it come to this already?

    That the question was even asked is a worry, particularly as employers are being asked to focus on wellbeing and to minimise psychosocial risks.

    On the other hand, most people are absolutely addicted to their phones and spend as much time as possible on them, because social media is expertly and purposely designed to cause addiction.

    I've long maintained that a manager or supervisor who sends emails or texts to staff outside working hours is just flagging to everyone that he or she is a poor manager.

    Is my thinking fair, or just hopelessly out of touch? Answers on a postcard please.
  • G K Andrews
    1
    Peter, we have a strict policy that unless you're expecting an emergency call or that you have prearranged with your manager, their acceptance to have their phone at or near their workstation, then phones are only for use at break times. It is not a good look when you observe someone on their phone during work hours needlessly and more so if there are visitors going through, around or near ones workstation. Initially, as there normally will be, some obvious opposition to this policy but in our case it worked well. Some of the concern was when staff were texting as they were walking, a definite H & S breach, especially as we have many moving machinery parts including forklifts.

    Grahame Andrews
    Elected H & S Rep
    Nelson Pine Industries Limited
  • Chris Hyndman
    49
    A couple of thoughts on this, the ability to interact with work outside of core hours can actually improve stress related issues as it allows you not be constrained by the 9-5 working hours, an absolute god send when a pressing issue presents itself unexpectedly at the wrong moment or your time management skills are maybe not as sharp as they could be!

    The caveat of course is that this becomes harmful when it is seen as an expectation or the employee fails to manage their time in a responsible way.

    The wording of the question worries me, no employee should be seeking the right to turn off their device unless they are an emergency role holder. The default position should always be that devices can be used outside of core working hours in a responsible manner.
  • Andrew P
    3
    Is this in regard to personal devices or company supplied devices?
    Isn't it amazing the way guys in a factory can be pulling their phone out every few minutes and then the same guys are uncontactable when they haven't turned up in the morning or have left early and haven't notified management!
  • Peter Bateman
    165
    To clarify, the right to disconnect refers to the right not to be contacted by text or email AFTER work hours.

    (Phone use during work hours perhaps raises other issues.)
  • Vickory Wilson
    5
    In some lines of work, having a cellphone of some sort on your person can be important in case you are accosted. Look at the flack that DOC went through recently!
    However if it is outside your normal working hours then your work cellphone should be off. This is important for your own wellbeing.
    We talk and talk about the work/life balance. How can you have that if you are looking at your work phone at home?
  • Stacey Blake
    4
    Hi Peter. If management are responsible for employees who work in an Oncall or afterhours standby capacity then I feel they should be contactable on their work phones 24/7 in case of emergencies. I would expect this to be written in to their contract and these people compensated additionally for this. Referring to staff who are employed under a contract that states 8-5 or 8 hours between the hours of 6am and 6pm and they have their work phones on during that work period then the expectation should not be that these staff have their work phones on after they finish work. As stated above, work/life balance, well being and well, ones own sanity really. Your thinking is fair. The fact that question was asked is a worry. I myself use my work phone purely for work purposes. It goes off when I get home and any social media, personal phone calls or texts are all handled on my personal phone. If my employer wishes me to be contactable 24/7 that would be a contract renegotiation and job description review, not an expectation they can simply ask for. That's my personal thoughts :o)
  • TracyR
    25
    I suppose it depends on the sitauation. As the HSE Manager I monitor the safety line which is 24/7. I take the calls as when inidents occur it is standard practice to call when incidents occur
  • Brook Rush
    12
    This stuff really gets to me also, and I'm a young(ish) person who is quite addicted to my phone and social media - but not for work purposes outside my 40ish hours a week.
    Very much agree with Stacey - if an employer expects a staff member to be contactable 24/7, this needs to be made part of the job description and compensation would need to match.
    My father-in-law is in his early 60s working for a large car dealership and he is expected to be contactable 24/7 and reply to ALL emails with a 15 minute time frame... that is insane!
    It will be interesting to see how the relatively new law in France around disconnecting from work plays out and if it has any real effect.
    For those who have no idea what I am on about: http://fortune.com/2017/01/01/french-right-to-disconnect-law/
  • Peter Bateman
    165
    Some useful thoughts so far in this developing thread. One further comment is that I suspect the distinction between work phone (supplied by employer) and personal phone is disappearing. Even where work phones are issued to staff, many managers will know the personal phone number of their direct reports and will use that channel if no response to the work phone.
  • Derek Miller
    26
    Given the fact that we are looking at the psychosocial aspects of work nowadays this is a very important factor. I remember some companies in Germany in the mid 90's setting a self destruct function on the bosses email systems. That way if they tried to contact staff out of hours it was automatically deleted. This was to try and reduce stress factors on staff and allow them time off to recuperate from work. As someone who deals with the international set I get emails in at all times of the day so have set my system up to a "do not disturb" mode. That way at 10 pm my phone stops all emails (except my exemptions ie family) and doesn't reactivate emails, messaging etc till 6 am. I know a lot of other professionals like myself that have activated this feature on their devices to guarantee down time. Up to the individual what they set, and it doesn't stop you interacting with things, just means you're not being pinged or alerted to new messages.
  • Simon Lawrence
    107
    I think Chris Hyndman makes a good point by putting the reverse stress management perspective on this. I've no doubt at all that some people want to stay in touch with what's going on at work. Having demands put on you is intrusive but keeping abreast of things is, for some people, better than wondering or getting nasty surprises later on. In my case, being self-employed and having a consulting service and a software service, I welcome hearing enquiries, issues and opportunities any time. The sooner the better. LESS stress, not more.

    So stress is largely a perception thing. And it's not necessarily caused by too much pressure. It can be feeling "not in control", unable to be part of things, even being left out and not having enough of a role to play.

    As others have already stated, the key here is maybe not so much whether the phone is used outside work hours, but whether there is an expectation, judgement or consequences for non-participation. Exceptions are OK when urgent issues or information is being sought and no one else can do it. We all love being the hero...

    I agree with Peter Bateman - any manager who routinely contacts people outside hours with expectations is showing poor management skills. If I call a third party after hours who, for example, does my software development, I do what most decent people do - apologise for the intrusion and ask politely for consent to talk about work.

    Any worker, employee or third party deserves an acknowledgement that even listening to you is granting an exceptional favour that they can decline with absolutely no reason given if they so choose.
  • Sheri Greenwell
    189
    As with so many issues, there isn't a single 'one size fits all answer'. It seems sensible that individuals should be discussing expectations and boundaries with their respective managers. If companies expect more from an individual than they think is reasonable, they have the option to discuss and negotiate, and if they can't agree, perhaps it's time to look elsewhere. If people feel they have no choice but to submit to demands imposed on them from further up the hierarchy, they would be better off to walk. Why allow unreasonable intrusion into your personal life then continue to be miserable and blame someone else?
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