‘The right to disconnect' law in the UK. Manna from heaven or just another layer of unnecessary legislation?
A right to disconnect law allows employees to disconnect from work outside of normal working hours. With a huge cohort of employees working from home on devices that have been issued by the organisation they work for, many staff are finding it difficult to switch off and are increasingly working out of hours. Read our blog to find out more...
If I'd have asked you in 2017 – 'Would you like to work from home full time?' you probably would have jumped at the chance. I am lucky to work in a role where most of the time (pre-COVID), I could choose where and when I worked, and I must admit, I wouldn't change it for the world. I have an outstanding life-work balance, being able to go into the office when I needed inspiration or staying at home when I wanted to get my head down and get stuff done. It suits my line of work perfectly. However, one size does NOT fit all.
For the people who are new to working from home full time, often, the reality hasn't quite lived up to the dream. For many of my friends who were once office-based, the 'work from home' mandate has become a bit of a nightmare. They miss the camaraderie and the collaboration opportunities working in an office provided.
It is no secret that many have found it incredibly tough to adapt to the new home/work lifestyle, and it takes a powerful will to manage the balance. Most people have also realised how hard it is to switch off, particularly when colleagues and clients expect you to be available at all times. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't all pyjamas and Loose Women! Very often, it's the opposite. Alright, you might be wearing PJs or casual clothes, but you're in work mode from 07.00 to 19.00, then going to grab some dinner because you probably missed lunch.
And it does not end there as some firms still have staff on furlough, or are running on a reduced workforce. So, for those still 'actively' employed, many are probably doing the jobs of two or three people. Increased workloads and an unstable economic environment have fuelled fear and uncertainty, with many saying, 'I can't complain, I just have to get on with it, I'm lucky to have a job!' – I know this rings true for many of you out there.
France is the pioneer of the 'Right to Disconnect' movement, which means that all staff – whatever they do – have clearly defined working hours and are not expected to answer emails or phone calls outside of the business day. The combination of stressful working conditions and heightened awareness around wellbeing and mental health issues have brought the 'Right to Disconnect' initiative to the forefront in the UK. A recent article on BBC.co.uk showcased how some are now calling for it to be implemented here. But therein lies the dilemma. On the one hand, right to disconnect, mandates employers to implement a policy of strict working hours, whilst on the other hand, staff are asking for more flexibility in their working day. You can't have both… or can you?
Volatile market conditions mean firms are focused on new business development, finding ways to increase productivity, and improve customer service capabilities while continually reducing operating costs. Employees want to work for successful companies, but they also want a better work/life balance. They need the freedom to switch off and do other things, like spending quality time with their families. But how can this be achieved without impacting business growth? Fewer emails maybe and more time to do the things they enjoy at work (see our recent blog: Email overload…responsible for the death of productivity the world over). The upshot of all of this is that we have businesses looking to do more with less, and a drained and demotivated workforce, screaming out for some quality downtime.
Enter Artificial Intelligence…
Wikipedia: "Colloquially, the term "artificial intelligence" is often used to describe machines that mimic "cognitive" functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as "learning" and "problem solving"
Ah ha – problem-solving! And that's just what it can do in this use case. Intelligent Business Automation enables firms to run more efficiently by eliminating error-prone, repetitive manual intervention. By adding a layer of AI and some workflows onto your unstructured inbound communications, whether text, voice, email or fax, you can rapidly reduce the burden on your human workforce. Automating process-driven tasks means they can handle more enquiries, complaints or returns faster than ever before. And for the employees, they can take some time out, confident that they won't return to an inbox overflowing with unanswered emails. Imagine the business development opportunities if they were to spend more time developing key client relationships or creating innovative new products or services?
So, with the advent of AI applied to the right use case, for the first time, you absolutely can have it all. It enables users to reduce costs and enhance productivity and improve the working conditions of their people. It could also potentially negate the need for yet another obligatory directive such as 'The right to disconnect.' With AI, whatever happens, it will not be a problem. Your AI model is always beavering away in the background and is constantly learning; this means workflow changes or new employment rules can be adopted quickly and with minimum disruption to the business. And there is more.
It’s time to stop being afraid of AI and embrace the power it has to make all our lives better – because really, that's what it's all about.