The Right to Disconnect
New legislation in Australia would allow employees to ignore work calls after hours without punishment. Several European countries have passed similar laws.
The rise in mobile work has blurred the lines between official work hours and people’s personal lives. With smartphones and at-home offices, working after hours has never been easier—easier for managers, that is. In response, several countries have pushed to enshrine a worker’s “right to disconnect.”
New legislation in Australia will allow employees to ignore “unreasonable” work communications after hours. Companies that punish unresponsive workers can be reported to the Fair Work Commission, which can levy fines. The bill has passed Australia’s Senate and is expected to clear the House.
In recent years, similar legislation has passed in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Western European countries have long taken the lead on policies that prevent overwork. In contrast, burnout is a significant problem in the U.S. and even worse in many East Asian countries like China, South Korea, and Japan. (See “Give Me a Break.”)
Ultimately, these new laws may be hard to enforce. This is especially true when it comes to remote work. While telecommuters often log off later, many admit they devote business hours to non-work activities. (See “Workin’ 9 to 5…Or Maybe Not?”) How do you define “after hours communication” when employees have flexible schedules?
Did You Know?
Boomers Embrace Temu. Over the last year, the e-commerce app Temu has steadily grown in popularity with U.S. shoppers. The Chinese company allows consumers to buy products at steep discounts but with long delivery times. Despite the app’s reputation as a marketplace for thrifty young people, it is actually more popular with older consumers. According to the research firm Attain, Temu shoppers aged 59+ placed an average of 5.6 orders in 2023. That’s more than 2x the orders placed by those aged 18-26 (2.6). While Millennials enjoy a good deal, they still prefer larger, well-known brands with fast delivery times. In contrast, Boomers seek episodic and transient “bargains.”
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