Right to digital disconnection: Everything you need to know

Published on 04/04/2024

Right to digital disconnection: Everything you need to know

Published on 04/04/2024
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Right to digital disconnection: Everything you need to know

When does the workday really end? Since telecommuting has become the preferred mode in many companies and the ease of contact provided by email and company chats, even from mobile devices, the workday seems never to end. This is why, increasingly, we talk about the right to digital disconnection, that is, the possibility of not being available outside of regular working hours, to “unplug” from digital life.

Technology in recent years has revolutionized, and continues to revolutionize, the work world positively. However, it leaves behind unpleasant consequences and side effects. The widespread presence of smartphones, tablets, or laptops, generally provided by companies to their workers, has made professional communications have immediate responses. But, does this justify responding at any hour of the day, type of request, or need? It shouldn’t, and this is where the need for legal regulation arises.

Keeping pace with the rapid digital evolution and regulating its aspects undoubtedly presents significant difficulties, even more so with the increase in telework. The starting point remains the same: the “Always on”, being always connected is an unhealthy behavior that prevents maintaining a satisfactory performance level, and consequently affects labor productivity.

Indeed, it has been scientifically proven that constant mental engagement, one that does not respect the natural rhythms of work and breaks alternation, can be profoundly harmful to mental and physical health.

The right to digital disconnection in Spain

In Spain, the right to workers’ disconnection was regulated for the first time through Article 88 of the Organic Law 3/2018, of December 5, on the Protection of Personal Data and guarantee of Digital Rights, although in most companies it had not been implemented as such, accustoming their workers to have almost absolute availability for work requirements. The mentioned article establishes that:

“Workers and public employees shall have the right to digital disconnection in order to ensure, outside legally or conventionally established working time, respect for their rest time, permits, and vacations, as well as their personal and family privacy.”

However, many workers out of professional commitment, answer communications, calls, emails, messages, etc., related to their work outside their working hours, not respecting their fundamental rights established by law, fostering negative consequences for their professional performance, such as techno-stress, computer fatigue, and the harmful continuous schedule, which makes it difficult to establish limits between their work and personal relationships, thus affecting their personal and family privacy.

The constant digital work connection also compromises and blurs the time boundaries of the workday, making it difficult to comply with the business obligation to record the working hours of employees.

Recently, this regulation has been complemented by the new Royal Decree-Law 28/2020 on telework. This refers to the previous law and adds that the business duty to guarantee digital disconnection leads to “a limitation of the use of business communication technology tools during rest periods, as well as respect for the maximum duration of the workday and any limits and precautions on working hours set by applicable legal or conventional regulations.”

The regulation also sets out the business obligation to develop “an internal policy directed at workers, including those in management positions, in which they will define the modalities of exercising the right to disconnection and training actions and awareness of personnel on a reasonable use of technological tools that avoids the risk of computer fatigue.” Undoubtedly, the royal decree-law prioritizes the well-being and experience of workers.

The European Parliament and the right to digital disconnection

The right not to be available outside working hours is not only a widely discussed topic in the Spanish realm; fortunately, it goes beyond national borders. The European Parliament has also expressed itself on this matter this year.

While there is still no digital disconnection law in Europe, a Resolution of the European Parliament, with recommendations addressed to the Commission on the right to digital disconnection, has been approved, establishing a labor framework for member countries, including, among other considerations, a maximum of 48 working hours per week, a minimum of 11 consecutive hours of daily rest, and at least four weeks of paid annual vacation per year. This resolution invites member states to recognize this right as fundamental.

The institution highlighted all the negative consequences on the quality of life of a worker who fails to disconnect, emphasizing that being constantly connected, along with strong work stress and the expectation of immediate response, can negatively affect the fundamental rights of workers, the balance between their professional and private lives, as well as their physical and mental well-being.

Furthermore, with the changes brought about by the pandemic and the massive use of digital tools at work, the need to intervene is evident. How? By adopting all necessary organizational measures to ensure workers’ disconnection, through clear and timely rules.

How to ensure health and digital disconnection in your company

From the labor preference for the development of flexible work modalities, such as telecommuting or the hybrid model, the need to articulate systems that guarantee their proper execution has been identified, respecting the rights of workers and the legal duties of the company.

Currently, systems have been implemented in companies’ digital devices to address this situation; below, we mention the most effective ones:

A productivity-focused measurement software

As we have already mentioned in a past post, measurement systems ensure compliance with the new telework law that encompasses the right to digital disconnection and other variables described in the regulations.

These systems remind companies and their workers of the time limits of each workday, their availability during the day, and the rest periods agreed upon with the company. All in real-time. It also facilitates the creation and modification of alerts that warn the worker when they are not respecting their digital disconnection periods.

Right to digital disconnection: Everything you need to know

At WorkMeter, we have productivity measurement software, which allows managers and those responsible to visualize, in real-time, the availability of their professional collaborators. Workers, in addition to setting their availability schedule as agreed with the company, receive alerts on their computer when they have exceeded the limit of labor productivity, or reached the corresponding working hours and need an immediate digital disconnection.

Our productivity measurement software enables companies to comply with most of the articles described in the telework law, to carry out the correct execution of teleworking.

Time control software

A system mandated by law so that companies can have effective control over the number of hours their workers perform, during their work development, regardless of their modality.

This system must correspond to the hours worked, recording the time of entry and the time of exit. This way, it is possible to demonstrate the application, or not, of each worker’s digital disconnection for their recognition.

The time management software solution from Workmeter, a software dedicated to time control, allows generating a record from the moment the worker has their first interaction with the computer to start their workday, as well as when they end its use, to finish it. Having all the information on digital connection and disconnection.

Thanks to these technological tools, it is possible to preserve the right to digital disconnection in scenarios of total or partial telework.

Fines for not respecting workers’ digital disconnection

Not respecting employees’ digital disconnection is grounds for sanction by the labor authority at the time of inspection. We can exemplify such an infraction with the complaint made by DNA Sindical in Catalonia accusing the security company Prosegur of violating its workers’ right to work-life balance and digital disconnection, by allowing calls and sending emails to their workers outside their working hours.

Communication with professionals; sending emails, chats, or calls, outside professional hours constitutes a violation of workers’ right to digital disconnection, considered a serious infringement within the legal labor regulations and sanctioned with fines between 625 and 6250 euros. However, if within the communications sent outside the worker’s working hours, it is clarified that their response should be given within working hours, the company can be exempt from the infringement.

digital disconnection must be evidenced in collective agreements

Collective labor agreements must establish and demonstrate the means and measures of appropriate digital health that guarantee the effective exercise of the right to disconnection in the workplace, as well as the management of the schedule during the workday, to be compatible with the guarantee of rest periods.

It is time for companies to start generating management strategies and implementing digital tools that guarantee the right to digital disconnection and protect the well-being of workers, inviting them to rest and disconnect, thus avoiding; excess and work stress.Performance Management Software - free trial

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