Lights on at the office

Australia Close to Becoming the Next to Recognize a “Right to Disconnect”

It looks likely to be coming to Australia.

Will it benefit employee’s mental health? Based on what we’ve seen in other countries, it’s undetermined. The language is often vague, and there are exceptions for emergencies, which there should be. But that opens up loopholes in who gets to define “emergency.” (I have worked with lawyers for years; their definition of emergency might be anything that prevents them from billing time right this very second.)

It’s interesting to see the pushback to our always-on culture, though. I might not favor strict right-to-disconnect rules around what hours you can and cannot be reachable because flexibility is the key to work-life balance. For me, sitting at a desk for 8-9 hours every day between 9-5 and then doing no work after five wouldn’t make me happy. Not because I love answering emails late at night, but because I’d rather have some flexibility to take a break in the middle of the day or make appointments and then work later instead of constantly trying to get permission for PTO, etc. I also recognize that it doesn’t work for every job, but it is possible for the kind of work I do and the kind of work many of us do.

Of course, the flexibility I want may not be what you want. It should be negotiable. I think for all the “these young people don’t want to work” statements that we see, the reality is that they want to define what work is for them and to have some flexibility about how they work.

They want to work, they don’t want to work the way so many of us have worked for years because they’ve seen what we got for all that work. It hasn’t been good.

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