95% check work emails at weekends, 82% during family time or holidays – Survey
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A survey by the FOR.U.M. Youth Section reveals that 97% of respondents work after hours, with 95% admitting to checking their emails during weekends and 82% of Maltese workers check their emails during family time such as dinner or while on vacation.
They said that the survey, entitled `The Right to Disconnect,’ was held between January and February 2017 and was the first step towards the creation of a policy document that reflects the needs of today’s digital era. Information was collected through an online questionnaire aimed at members of Unions within For.U.M. and a total of 526 individuals participated.
Speaking during a press conference, FOR.U.M. Youth Section Chairperson Graham Sansone stated that, “in the pre-Internet and pre-smartphone era, barring a few professions, once people were back home, they were totally disconnected from their work or offices. However, once people began checking their emails on their smartphones, it became a norm to expect people to respond to emails even after working hours. This survey confirms this.”
Mr. Sansone added that `The Right to Disconnect’ means that “except for a defined number of working hours, organisations and companies cannot expect their employees to respond to work-related emails or to other means of digital communication. Smartphones and the easy access to modern means of communication have made it impossible for people to totally disconnected and rest – not even during vacation leave.”
In view of this, FOR.U.M. said that it is proposing a law in which companies would be required to guarantee a `Right to Disconnect’ to their employees. “This means that organisations will have to state a limit to the number of working hours and ensure that their workers are not forced to respond to emails after these hours.”
Backing his arguments Mr. Sansone also mentioned a study called “Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect” by Lehigh University’s Liuba Belkin, Virginia Tech’s William Becker and Colorado State University’s Samantha Conroy, in which it is shown that employees are growing exhausted by the expectation that they will always be available, never knowing what kind of work requests will be asked of them off hours.
Benoit Hamon, a French member of Parliament, explained how “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash – like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails – they colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”
During the press conference, FOR.U.M. Vice President Mr. Chris Attard stated that work-related email is becoming a scourge all over the world. “People are expected to remain connected to their offices 24×7. Holidays are not an exception. Constant email communication may cause mental tension, sleeplessness, burnout and even issues within families and something needs to be done.”