In the winter session of 2019, a National Congress Party’s MP presented a bill to empower employees to go offline after work hours. Called the Right to Disconnect Bill, it gives the employees the right to take no work calls or emails after office and on holidays. However, the question is – is the Indian workspace is ready for it? 

In a digitally linked working community, after being continuously in office for ten hours or more, it can become frustrating and stressful for professionals to respond to office-related calls even after work hours. The present working environment has drastically shrunk the margin between work life and home life.

Digital tools have undoubtedly improved productivity and efficiency and brought activeness and freedom to employees. However, there are occasions where they may also create hindrance in one’s peace and lead to excessive interference in personal lives As per a study by WHO, the total estimated number of people living with anxiety disorders in the world is 264 million, and a huge number is of private workers. In such scenarios, it’s important to ask – are your employees truly happy?

With rising cases of anxiety disorder due to a high imbalance in work life and personal life, less downtime, heart-related problems, loss in appetite, and obesity due to long working hours, more mental, emotional, and behavioral problems are affecting employees. Work-related calls, messages, or emails disturb people to such an extent that the person starts distancing himself from socializing very often. This is also weakening social relations. According to a survey, it is found that 90% of the divorce and separation cases arise in families where people spend less time with each other.

The Practical Implications of Right to Disconnect

To not be engaged with personal life beyond work hours had been a norm before tech took over. Some evolved nations, particularly in Europe, have managed to recognize and maintain this dynamic. The Right To Disconnect Bill in India was proposed on the same equation. However, with the fierce professional competition, a lack of jobs, and growing anticipations of proving our worth has triggered. India ranks among the top nations in terms of the longest working hours in the world. In reality, the act may be unenforceable. If you do not have job security and there’s high unemployment, you do not really have the bargaining power here. Hence, legislation may not be able to mandate a solution to this problem. 

The right to disconnect from work after office hours has a cost. As a matter of fact, not everybody is punctual and disciplined in their work as per the deadlines and schedules. The bill calls for the total disconnection of work calls and emails in non-working hours. This may create a wave of stress among managers and employers who are bogged down by inefficient employees. A developing economy like India is still struggling to get optimum results from production, top and bottom-line performances. Another backdrop of the Right to Disconnect Bill is that one cannot simply ignore the duties bestowed upon them. With dynamic business demands, support may be needed at any moment, and ‘Right to Disconnect” is a hurdle in between.

Conclusion

The insidious impact of ‘always on’ organizational culture is a latent benefit, as it minimizes the problems due to ‘flexible work boundaries’ which turn into ‘work without boundaries’. However, that does not imply suffering and grinding anytime and anywhere for work is the solution. It can have deleterious effects not just on your business but on your wellbeing. It is important to make sure that employers account for their staffing needs as per the nature of their business and define emergency contact procedures and any added overhead that these might cause.  The onus lies on employers to better manage their organizational expectations with stress and the burn out that negatively affects a worker’s overall job performance. After all, employee loyalty is earned, not taken.

The success of the Right to Disconnect, if passed in the parliament, will thus depend on the organization’s standards, employee efficiency, and values. Remember, if you don’t switch off from work, you may not be able to recover from work. 

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