Chichester Chamber Blog
In My View: Are your employees switched on?
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the UK’s Working Time Regulations which include the rules on how many hours people can work, the number and length of rest breaks, and paid annual holiday. But how relevant is this in today’s digital world?
Although emails and texts were around 20 years ago, most people kept their personal and working communications separate and Wi-Fi connectivity was in its infancy. Since then, technology and social media have transformed the way we work and keep in touch. So much so, that many people are ‘connected’ to their work 24/7. We shift from a work email to a personal WhatsApp to an Instagram picture to a professional text, all on the same device and at any time of the day.
Smartphones and tablets have made it easier for people to work while they travel, but this can increase the pressure on them to get work done on their journey to and from work. Increasingly, people are asking whether time spent working while we travel, should be classed as working time? It probably won’t be long before a legal claim is made in this respect.
However, I think the real danger is digital burnout. For many employees, compulsively checking and sending work emails outside office hours has become the norm. This blurs the boundaries between work and leisure and it becomes difficult to switch off.
In my view, employers should make it clear to their staff when, where and how they expect them to be connected. This may include setting clear boundaries and will vary in different industries and businesses. It’s important to remember that being less available doesn’t necessarily equate to being less efficient. In fact, people are more productive when they have more down-time. Some firms have recognised that switching off from work is essential and have banned out-of-hours emails.
Even during the working day, people need quality time to focus on their work without being distracted by emails and other digital communications. We need to get out of the habit of reading and answering them immediately, after all most don’t require an immediate response. In my experience employees need clear space to think, be creative and contribute to business growth. Employers may need to give their people ‘permission’ to be less available.
CCCI members’ meetings and events give businesses the chance to talk about issues that are important to them. Meeting other business people and getting to know them in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere provides members with their own informal support network – as well as the opportunity to develop good business relationships.
Dianne Lambdin, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and The Sussex HR Hub