Findings of a recent survey carried out by Arlington Research on behalf of OneLogin, a leader in cloud-based identity and access management, are telling. Out of the UK employees questioned a quarter of them admitted that work apps are the first thing that they check on their mobile devices when they wake up, coming ahead of social media (18 per cent) and news sites (11 per cent). Two-thirds ( 66 per cent) check their work apps while on public transport, 37 per cent while in bed, 30 per cent in the car and 18 per cent on a night out. In our working world connectivity is crucial to business. But are we paying a price?
What about work-life balance and re-energizing? Having no downtime can’t be good. Even if you don’t respond to business emails, surely a quick glance at a client’s request or boss’ light bulb moment means you’re not switching off? Interestingly, 28 per cent of the employees worry that they’re too connected and should check work apps less. Almost one in ten (7 per cent) actually check their work apps more than they check their personal ones.
So what laws do we have to prevent digital burn out? In fact, we’ve hardly any. Under the Working Time Regulations workers mustn’t work more than 48 hours each week, averaged over 17 weeks. Workers can opt out though. There are also some general exceptions to the 48 hour week including for those workers whose working time is not measured and are in control of their work.
And would checking an email be included within the working time? It probably wouldn’t. Working time is defined as working at your employer's disposal and carrying out your duties; periods when the employee is receiving relevant training; and other periods specified in an agreement. Time working at home, as part of a flexible working arrangement, instead of being in the office, would be covered. However, checking emails before getting out of bed in the morning or late at night in the pub wouldn’t be included because you wouldn't be at your employer's disposal at that time.
Is intervention necessary?
The French think so. France is passing laws that would give employees the right to disconnect. Under the proposed guidelines, businesses with more than 50 employees would be required to draw up a charter, setting out the hours when employees are not supposed to be sending emails.
However, many would argue that employees should be able to choose how to manage their time, and connectivity is part of modern business life.
Matt Gingell is a partner at law firm Gannons, and specialises in employment law.