If you are like 97% of our Canadian clients, work hours in your organization have become mere suggestions rather than hard and fast rules. It is often not unusual for us to see most of the workforce at their desks well after the suggested work day end time. This valuable time is robbing families of their all-important after work family-time. For many organizations, the long work day has become a badge of honor for employees who will routinely ping each other after hours and on weekends now that technology allows you to do work from anywhere anytime as a push to say that they are still working. There is another way!
The Right to Disconnect
In a bid to restore some semblance of work-life balance, French companies with more than 50 employees are now required to guarantee workers the “right to disconnect” from technology when they leave the office at night. The law, which took effect Jan. 1 and has unclear enforcement provisions, makes it obligatory for qualifying firms to “start negotiations to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones”. It may seem ironic that a country with a mandated 35-hour workweek and extra-long holiday periods is clamoring for additional downtime.
However, France deserves kudos for addressing what everyone else ignores: The blurring of work and home life is not healthy. We carry our work with us everywhere, via laptops and smartphones and Wi-Fi. And while that’s made some things easier, it has simultaneously forced us to be instantly and always accessible. This “forever on” culture leaves little time to disconnect and reboot, leading to increased levels of worker burnout, stress, and damaged personal relationships.
“Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work,” French politician Benoit Hamon told the BBC.
“They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash – like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails – they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”
French companies aren’t the only ones drawing boundaries around the demands of email. As of 2011, Volkswagen’s servers don’t send or receive emails from company-owned smartphones between 6:15pm and 7am on weekdays and weekends (though the policy applies only to full-time employees with union-negotiated contracts in Germany, and not senior management). In 2012, Atos CEO Thierry Breton announced plans to ban all internal email after a “Wellbeing at Work” program found that employees spent 15 to 20 hours a week answering and deleting emails. In 2013, Germany’s labor minister limited after-hours communication in her department to “exceptional cases.” And in 2014, Germany’s Daimler set up “mail on holiday,” which lets employees opt to have their emails deleted while on vacation.
The formal measure for productivity is total output/total hours expended. It is easy to see that from this calculation there are only two variables that managers must manage in order to improve the productivity of their teams.
The simplest way for a manager to improve the productivity of their team is to manage the number of resource inputs to achieve the outputs. In order to manage the inputs to the process, one of the first things that a manager can do is to establish clear work time boundaries by establishing guidelines for their team. One of the foundations of Propel Solutions is our daily team meeting that starts our day, every day to get the team started on the right foot. We formally set work hours and routinely praise the team when everyone leaves on time.
4 Solutions Created by Bringing Back Work Hours
1. Decrease miscommunication by creating powerful communication habits:
Employees are able to communicate with each other directly without the use of email, which will be a reinforcing principle and actually create more time for the team to get the real work done.
2. Increase employee energy by allowing them the space to be well rested
Ultimately, respecting work hours will allow your employees to be able to confidently switch off after hours so that they can return to work well rested having had an all too important time to formally switch their brain to other areas. By doing this your team will come back refreshed and recharged to face the next day.
3. Lower cross-contamination of work and life with a clear divide between business and personal time:
Employee’s personal commitments will take time in employee personal time. When employees don’t feel that their personal time is respected by the organization they will undoubtedly try to get some of their personal time back throughout the day. This can look like personal phone calls or aimlessly surfing the web. In a culture that prides itself on long work hours employees will attempt to find ways to stretch the work out to fill the time so that they will not be bored when they have to stay until 6:00 pm. This is bad news for managers as deadlines will often be missed in an attempt to show how busy the team is.
4. Promote greater engagement on your team:
When setting work boundaries, you are effectively showing your team that you care about their personal life as well as their career contributions. When showing your team that you care about them individually as people it is one of easiest ways to get them to care about their work colleagues.
Questions? Contact Us
If you want to learn how to instill a culture of Continuous Improvement within your organization contact us at Propel Solutions today. We specialize in creating high performing teams and have a proven track record of powerful results.
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