Future of Work
Abiding by Bill 27 and making it work
By Lidia Pawlikowski
In 2022, the “workplace” has evolved and is no longer a physical place. Any place your employees can log in to a laptop or check work email can be a workplace. And in the wake of the pandemic, this could mean a kitchen table, a sofa or even before falling into bed at the end of a long day.
Yet the constant connectedness is ruining everyone’s mental health. One study revealed that 75 per cent of employees who felt they had to respond to work emails after work hours reported higher levels of psychological distress. Nearly two-thirds reported emotional exhaustion as well.
Employees who can’t rest and recharge during their private time don’t make good employees the next day. In Ontario, this situation actually led to a legislative change. Commonly discussed as the Right to Disconnect Bill, this law has given many employees and employers alike reason for optimism.
The Right to Disconnect
Ontario Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act, brings a number of important changes to the workplace. Perhaps the most discussed is the “right to disconnect,” a practical response to protect the jobs of those who choose to work only during their regular business hours.
The bill requires employers with more than 25 employees to create a formal, written policy protecting the right to disconnect. Employees who choose not to engage in any workplace communication outside of their regular working hours will no longer have to explain themselves.
The written policy must have been completed by June 2, 2022 and socialized to new hires within 30 days of their start date.
Best practices to develop the formal policy
Organizations need to create a policy, but there are no prescriptive measures for Ontario organizations looking to do so. While this does create a challenge, successful employers will consider all the ways the policy already links to company values and employee engagement.
These four tips are a good starting place:
1. Get senior management on board. The management team generally must approve new policies, so secure the buy-in of all C-level executives before embarking on a plan. Then ask the management team to present the policy to employees, including the specific parameters and the consequences for noncompliance. Finally, remind the management team that they set the tone: Following the policy and sending email only during business hours will have a greater impact than any communication to employees.
2. Create a communications plan. Make sure employees understand Bill 27, especially in the context of organizational culture. For example, a workplace culture that promotes mental health and wellness will naturally support a disconnect policy. Then, share your organization’s right to disconnect policy clearly, detailing the consequences for noncompliance, and encourage managers to demonstrate their compliance. Continue to share information about the policy regularly, through multiple vehicles, where it makes sense.
3. Train everyone. It’s crucial that stakeholders understand how Bill 27 will impact their working life. Offer targeted training to different groups, from senior leadership to mid-level managers to individual contributors. This training can help identify the best ways for each of these groups to implement the policy. It also gives employees an opportunity to share any specific concerns about the policy and the ways it will impact their working lives.
4. Highlight the link to strong mental health. Bill 27 can be easily connected to employee wellness. After all, employees that have a break to spend time with family or engage in hobbies can return to work refreshed and ready to progress at work. While some organizations may not have a formal wellness strategy, it’s a good idea to engage employees by introducing the topic and providing relevant resources to create awareness and support work-life balance or formalizing a wellness program within the workplace. Connecting these initiatives to a right to disconnect policy can help employees understand the importance of taking care of their mental health.
Lidia Pawlikowski is a Health Consultant from HUB International, with 20 years of wellness industry experience in designing, implementing, and evaluating strategic health-related programs in the workplace.
Print this page
- Most of us don’t monitor our body chemistry: That’s a mistake
- Taking 10,000 steps a day benefits your emotional well-being