NewsThe right to disconnect: urgent need for ‘sustainable working practices’

Sustainable working practices are essential for mental health in a time of anxiety and social isolation – says UNI Global Union.
Content Team4 years ago6 min

New guidance released this week by UNI Global Union says employers ‘must create sustainable work from home cultures in light of Covid-19 turning millions of kitchen tables into impromptu home offices’.  In October, UNI launched a campaign on the right to disconnect, and we’ve updated our recommendations in the wake of the coronavirus. UNI is a global federation of unions representing more than 20 million workers in 150 countries.

“When we are already under pressure because of pandemic-related anxiety and social isolation, workers should not have to face the burnout and depression associated with an ‘always on’ culture. The flexibility to work from home is important, and we are calling on employers to recognize the equal importance of a sustainable work culture in these difficult times—including the right to disconnect.”

– Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union

UNI Professional and Managers launched a campaign around the right to disconnect last year and released a best practices guide for introducing a right to disconnect in the workplace. The group has now launched new recommendations for disconnecting in the time of the coronavirus, including:

  • Highlighting the importance of disconnection. The right to disconnect is important under normal circumstances to ensure work-life balance and to prevent anxiety, depression, and burnout, but becomes even more important when facing extended periods of working from home. A right to disconnect can also help alleviate the overall level of stress and anxiety that employees feel due to the impact of the coronavirus.
  • Defining the working hours. It may not always be feasible to adhere to a standard 9-to-5 schedule when working from home in these times, but clear communication and agreement on what constitute normal working hours are important during this crisis.
  • Different groups are differently affected. Employees whose children, parents, or other dependent family members rely on them for care are particularly affected by the Covid-19 crisis and may not be able to devote as much attention to their work as someone without similar responsibilities. Consequently, employers should not penalize employees who are less connected or reward those who are more “on call” in this period.
  • Communication and training. While many professionals and managers are used to remote working, not everyone is. It is important that the employer communicates to all staff what their right to disconnect policy is and offers trainings on how to practically execute it.

In a recent survey by UNI of member unions from more than 70 different countries, more than half said they have negotiated the right to disconnect for their members forced to work from home during the crisis. UNI has also secured the right to disconnect in global agreements with telecommunications giants Telefonica and Orange.

“Enforcing the right to disconnect is another way that unions are stepping up for their members during the outbreak. The duty to respect others’ right to disconnect is often overlooked in regular times, but it is even more important now, in this period of extreme disruption and stress.”

– Alex Högback, Director of UNI Professionals and Managers

To find out more information about working from home, click here.

Content Team

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