After-hours work emails are facing more legal restrictions
The pandemic-driven shift to remote work has blurred the line between employees' professional and personal lives, making it harder for workers to disconnect after hours. But a spate of new legislation across the globe is popping up to counteract this erosion of boundaries.
In Kenya, for example, the Employment (Amendment) Bill would give workers "the right to disconnect" after working hours.
"Where an employer contacts an employee during the period when there is no mutually agreed out-of-work hours, the employee — (a) shall not be obliged to respond and shall have the right to disconnect; and (b) may choose to respond, for which the employee shall be entitled to get compensation," the bill reads.
Employers in Ontario, Canada are required to have written policies on disconnecting from work that outline when work-related communications, including emails, phone call and video conferences, are prohibited.
Increased burnout is leading to conversations — and new legislation — around how to protect workers from demanding bosses. In the U.S., more employees are engaging in "quiet quitting," or doing the bare minimum, to set boundaries at work — refusing to work after hours or on weekends to complete their duties.
"It looks like somebody got the memo that this is an issue," Pete Havel, workplace consultant and author of "The Arsonist in the Office," a book about toxic workplaces, told CBS News.
Boundaries in the U.S.
No such legislation exists in the U.S. yet. Havel suggested that could be tied to Americans' sense of competition.
"We're pretty entrepreneurial as individuals and we want that advantage over a colleague. We want to be involved in that big project coming up," he said.
Havel said the onus is on both the employer and employee to set boundaries around communicating outside of normal office hours.
For a manager, this can mean understanding workers have commitments outside of their jobs. For example, it would be unwise for a manager to call an employee who they know is a parent of six kids around dinnertime, Havel said.
"I think it's incumbent on the manager to know who he's calling — or she — and to think before they make that call or send that email," Havel said.
If they establish boundaries and a rare work-related call does come through at an odd time, that could signal that it's important.
"And if it's not, you're going to start losing people," Havel said.