Thursday 3 June 2021 11:53 am

Calls for policy to help remote workers strike a balance between home and work life

The government has been urged to introduce a policy to help remote workers strike a better balance between work and home commitments.

The British Chambers of Commerce, the Mental Health Foundation and trade union Prospect have all joined the conversation, with the latter calling for a ban on out-of-hours emails.

Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, believes a more sensible, agile working model would provide welcome flexibility for businesses and individuals alike.

“With the right workplace policies and procedures in place, it can help people to better balance work and home commitments and maintain good mental health.

“We are working with the government’s Flexible Working Taskforce to ensure firms have access to guidance and best practice to make agile working a success.”

‘Right to disconnect’

Trade union Prospect is calling for the government to give employees a legally binding “right to disconnect”.

This would ban bosses from contacting workers outside of set hours, and any emails sent at these times could be automatically deleted to deter off-duty staff from checking their inbox.

Polling by Prospect found that 66 per cent of those currently working remotely would support the policy.

“We are demanding action in the Employment Bill as the ‘dark side’ of remote working starts to take toll,” Prospect said in a statement.

The Office for National Statistics has found that more than a third of UK employees did at least some of their work from home last year.

The right to disconnect has been law for four years in France, and Ireland introduced rules in April adopting similar policies considering the rise of remote working.

‘Respect boundaries’

“It is clear that for millions of us, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office, with remote technology meaning it is harder to fully switch off, contributing to poor mental health,” said Andrew Pakes, research director at Prospect.

The official advice in the UK is currently for people to work from home wherever possible.

The Mental Health Foundation recommends that employers stay in touch with workers throughout the day, but says that separation between work and personal life is essential.

“Think before connecting with colleagues you wouldn’t ordinarily link with on things like Facebook and respect the boundaries people have between work and home life,” the charity said in a statement.