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right to disconnect

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Right to disconnect legislation is a body of regulations limiting the time that employers can expect employees to be available for work-related off-hours communications. Those rights are specified in the labor laws of some jurisdictions and in the corporate policies of many large organizations.

Off-hours communications can include texts, emails and social media communications as well as phone calls. Typically, right to disconnect laws do not make it illegal for an employer or manager to send communications outside of work hours; the legislation simply attempts to ensure that an employee cannot be penalized for ignoring them.

Just as interruptions require recovery time on the job – 23 minutes per interruption, according to research -- they also encroach upon more than just the time involved in the actual communication at home, taking the employee’s attention from their private life to their work life. Furthermore, even if the employee refrains from responding, the contact is likely to constitute an interruption in any case.

Jonathan Wolfe, in a New York Times article, reported that employees in one study spent an average of eight hours a week responding to emails outside of office hours. Other research found that employees who responded to work emails after 9 p.m. had sleep deficits that night and lower levels of engagement on the job the following day.

This was last updated in July 2019

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