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Addressing concerns regarding the Right to Disconnect


The much-discussed ‘right to disconnect’ law has been passed by parliament, meaning that employees can now choose to ignore unreasonable attempts by their bosses to contact them outside of working hours. 

Although this is an important step to ensure employees have a good work-life balance, business owners may be left feeling confused and grappling with difficulties adapting to the new laws. 

How the ‘right to disconnect’ presents new challenges to employers

Maintaining flexible working hours

Flexible working hours have become a coveted aspect of work for millions of employees across Australia. This arrangement enables workers to balance their professional responsibilities with personal commitments, such as medical appointments, school drop-offs and optimising work hours according to individual work styles. However, critics caution that the “right to disconnect” poses a potential threat to the preservation of such flexible work arrangements. These arrangements are often based on a reciprocal understanding, wherein employees enjoy personal flexibility in exchange for remaining accessible outside of regular hours for urgent matters.

Keeping businesses flexible

The “right to disconnect” law has the potential to make it harder for businesses to be adaptable and flexible, aspects which are crucial to ensure a business thrives. Small businesses, which typically operate with limited resources, may find it challenging to maintain operations with the same level of flexibility and efficiency as before the implementation of the bill.

Accessing assistance outside of working hours  

In certain circumstances and industries, it’s essential for individuals to work beyond their designated hours to accomplish tasks, address emergencies, and communicate with teams across various time zones. However, the new law makes it difficult for businesses to enforce this without running into legal trouble, meaning that businesses may encounter a shortage of personnel available to assist in such scenarios.

Increased operational costs 

The implementation of the “right to disconnect” legislation may result in increased costs for businesses. These may stem from the need to develop and enforce new policies and procedures, hire additional staff or pay overtime to cover essential tasks previously handled outside of regular hours as well as legal and compliance expenses, and productivity and efficiency costs. 

How to overcome potential challenges of the right to disconnect 

The main point of the “right to disconnect” is to ensure that employees aren’t ‘always on’ and have sufficient time away from work. For employers, the first step should be establishing clear policies outlining expectations for after-hours communication and response times. While many business owners maintain online accessibility around the clock sending messages to employees as their schedules permit, it’s essential to clarify to staff that immediate responses are not mandatory and employees won’t be penalised for only responding during work hours.

It’s worth noting that in certain circumstances some element of flexibility may be necessary, particularly during emergencies. That’s why continuous and transparent dialogue between employer and employee is crucial to ensure expectations are set and everyone is on the same page. If employees do express a willingness to be available for emergencies, perhaps in exchange for preferred working hours or more flexibility, such contact doesn’t violate the new law.

To help manage the need for out-of-hours communication, businesses can adopt solutions such as email schedulers that honour do-not-disturb periods, and AI chatbots capable of assisting customers beyond regular working hours. However, while technology can be incredibly helpful in managing certain aspects of the right to disconnect, it’s not a cure-all for all associated challenges. For businesses in need of supplemental manpower and swift resource allocation, freelancers can be a valuable solution. These self-employed professionals establish their own work schedules, enabling businesses to engage them for projects outside of standard hours if necessary. Utilising global freelancer platforms like Fiverr provides access to freelancers across various time zones. Require overnight assistance? Consider hiring a freelancer based in the UK to work while your team rests.

Fiverr makes it easy for businesses to find a freelancer who meets their needs. Once a business has identified what kind of assistance they’re looking for, hiring managers can use the platform to filter by location, language, service options, budget, availability and delivery time. After selecting the consultants who appear suitable, they can delve further into the freelancers’ experience and review customer feedback firsthand to pinpoint the ideal person who fits the requirements.

As the debate surrounding the right to disconnect continues to evolve, it’s evident that both businesses and employees face a myriad of challenges but also opportunities. Effective implementation of clear policies and open communication are key to cultivating a workplace that respects employees’ boundaries, promotes work-life balance, and ultimately fosters a happier, more productive workforce.

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