In January 2017 when the French government introduced a new law, dubbed the "right to disconnect", giving employees oforganisationswith more than 50 employees the legal right to avoid work emails outside working hours, unsurprisingly it was met with widespread approval.
Supporters of the new law say that employees who are required to monitor and reply to work emails out of hours are not only being exposed to unacceptable levels of stress, burnout, sleep problemsandrelationship difficulties but are also not being fairly paid for their overtime.
France, although an early adopter, wasn’t the pioneer of the practice as in 2014 German car-maker Daimler set up an optional service for workers going on holiday; instead of sending an out-of-office reply, they could opt to have all new emails automatically deleted while they were away and soon after Volkswagen and BMW also chose to implement limits on out of hours emails.
There is no doubt that the lines between work and home life have become very blurred and while laptops, smartphonesandWiFi often make our lives easier it has at the same time made it hard to disconnect from work and has led to a ‘forever on’ culture.
It even has a name, Technostress. Defined as the negative psychological link between people and the introduction of new technologies.
Indeed, a recent report found that an ‘always-on culture’ driven by technological changes is having a damaging effect on workers. “Excessive use of email can lead to increased burnout, conflicts with one’s family, reduced satisfaction with work and reduced wellbeing,” says Ofir Turel, professor of information systems and decision sciences at the College of Business and Economics at California State University.
Not only is answering work emails from home potentially bad for an employees’ wellbeing,it also might not be an efficient way of working. “Is responding to emails after midnight effective?” asks Turel. “Will people make more mistakes when responding to an email rashly when at home?”
Although Technostress is a regrettable reality in our modern age, by making a determined effort to tackle it companies can actually use it to their advantage when recruiting people and retaining current talent.
A business that is driven to address and reduce the Technostress in their employees’ lives will strengthen their employer brand and will be more appealing to both current and future employees.
So, how can you reduce Technostress in the workplace?
Have a clear policy - develop a policy that clearly guarantees employees don’t have to and shouldn’t feel obligated to answer any emails, text messages, phone calls or social media messages when they are not at work.
Lead by example - ensure all managers are willing to back the policy and then put it in writing so that employees feel confident of your commitment.
Communicate it - although Technostress is an adverse reality of the modern age, nevertheless your companies' stance to try to improve and protect your employees lives outside of work can be used to your advantage when trying to recruit and retain the best talent.
For you to be seen as an employer of choice you have to make sure that everyone is aware ofyouemployee ledpolices. Communicate your Technostress policies on all internal and external communications including job adverts, employee handbooksandany retention and recruitment literature.