Society & Culture

Should we have the right to disconnect? Does the 'Always on' work culture affect you?

Society & Culture

Posted by: TaylorCS

7th Apr 2021 11:17am

Recently the ABC reported "The right to disconnect – won in the Victoria Police union's most recent negotiations – directs managers to respect leave and rest days and avoid contacting officers outside work hours, unless in an emergency or to check on their welfare.

The aim is to shift the "always-on" culture so that officers can switch off from work after they have finished their shift."

Do you think you are expected to be 'Always On' in your role? If yes, how do you overcome this? What boundaries have you or could you set? Do you think the onus should be on employers or employees to make sure you have the right to disconnect?

This competition is now closed, please keep an eye out for our new competition!

Comments 73

  • 17th Aug 2023 11:28am

Parts of Europe it is illegal for your employer to contact you out of hours. Clock off, nothing work related until the start of the next shift.

  • 17th Aug 2023 11:27am

Parts of Europe it is illegal for your employer to contact you out of hours. Clock off, nothing work related until the start of the next shift.

  • 7th Jun 2021 02:18pm

Yes we need to disconnect. It's not good for our health both mentally and physically to be connected to everything for every second of every day.

  • 19th May 2021 03:57pm

When you get a job leave everything behind door when you enter your workplace.concentrate on work do it best you can and finish it best way you can

  • 11th May 2021 11:22am

I think we all should. It really doesn't bother me if I'm on the computer or tablet that much. If people want to chat they can use the phone. More personal and better for our health.

  • 2nd May 2021 12:22pm

We all need our personal space and disconnect from certain areas of our lives, we need to relax and detox the brain as well as the body needs time to unwind and relax there would be less PTSD and mental health problems

Missy Sarah
  • 19th Apr 2021 11:50pm

I am retired now so I can switch off whenever I feel but I think it is necessary for those who have families and work.

Cazz 2
  • 19th Apr 2021 07:49pm

I fully agree with the need to switch off once you finish work for the day. There is a tendency in some workplaces to have one person as the "go to" person in the event of a crisis. When offered the opportunity to be contactable after hours, I said no, because I could see where it would lead. They should train more staff so that they have a selection of people to step in.

  • 15th Apr 2021 09:05pm

For someone like me who is very result driven, I do need help setting boundaries. My last few jobs holding senior positions as a working mum left me completely burnt out. I’ve worked with different time zones or executives that don’t stop ‘thinking’ which meant there was always a fire to put out somewhere. I hated letting people down but I was ultimately letting my family and myself down.
In today’s digital age you can always be found even if you don’t go searching for it. I’ve learnt from my past bad behaviours and will no longer take a work phone and once I put down the lid of my laptop I mentally switch off work. It helps that I’d completely walked away from senior positions and am currently working part-time mostly from home. I’ve also been really honest with my new workplace that I need boundaries to obtain a healthy work/life balance and am fully supported by our CEO. I guess what I’ve found is that I personally needed to make adjustments to ‘switch off’ and re-prioritise what’s important - it takes more than a 9-5 workplace. With COVID forcing us to work from home, this shift in culture has also helped me recalibrate how to spend my time towards work, family, friends and for my own wellbeing.

  • 14th Apr 2021 10:49pm

As I work mostly from home in social media, writing and editing for a number of organisations, as well as research and administration for a couple of others, I do not have set work hours but am generally expected to be contactable most of the time, especially for articles which need immediate publication because of the instant news cycle. My employers are all aware that I juggle a variety of jobs (about 6-7) and are usually flexible with my duties. I have found that my male bosses, whether married or not, tend to be more respectful of family time and concerned about my health, especially as I am currently pregnant. The irony I have found is that my female managers (one being a grandmother) tend to ignore boundaries and ring or text at odd hours like 10 p.m. or once, even 12.30 a.m. expecting me to work immediate miracles! (Even though these are the two positions which generally require going into the office, so one would think the boundaries would be more delineated - but the positions have become less office-based since the start of the pandemic.) I put it down to their anxious and micromanaging personalities, but in speaking with female friends in both Australia and Singapore, I found that they agree male managers tend to be easier to work with, with less drama; they simply assign a task and trust that it will be completed, which is far less stressful. [Of course, there are variations, like my first male manager, who was also an overbearing micromanager... but at least he didn't like people staying overtime!]

After speaking with my female manager who is a grandma, we tried committing boundaries to paper [her idea], but she continued to disrespect them. Finally, I decided it was having a negative impact on my overall well-being and recently stepped down from my position; a colleague is also quitting after being bullied by this boss. Thankfully, I have been promoted in one of my other casual positions; it was a bit of a scary move, as the job I quit provided my main income.

I think as the balance of power is generally tilted in favour of the employer, they have the responsibility to ensure their employees and contractors have time off, refraining from intrusions into their private time. Even machines need a break from work. At the same time, employees need to know how to politely stand up for themselves when an overzealous manager intrudes. Sometimes all it takes is ignoring the 10 p.m. phonecall! It was even more annoying when I was manning a 24-hour hotline for the pregnancy crisis centre; I received a 3 a.m. call from a mentally ill man. [Another reason I quit; did not want to end up manning the hotline again when my colleague quit!]

Sometimes I end up procrastinating on my tasks if they seem too overwhelming, but I usually practice "productive procrastination", so I end up finishing a whole lot of other work. It is helpful for me to be able to switch between different tasks, giving my brain a break from one line of work. Also, as I work from home, I can get up and wash the dishes or do the laundry as a break from sitting at my desk. These breaks in my day are essential to my well-being, making work far less onerous than sitting in an office for several hours. Overall, I am thankful for my current employment situation, with its flexibility and lack of office politics.

  • 13th Apr 2021 04:01pm

When you get a job leave everything behind door when you enter your workplace.concentrate on work do it best you can and finish it best way you can

  • 13th Apr 2021 03:53pm

I don't have the problem after hours- these days. If I've had a crappy morning I'll make sure I'm nowhere to be found for a 15 minute break. I just what that little window of customer and idiot free time. So I can fully understand the motivation.

  • 13th Apr 2021 01:56pm

People should have the right to disconnect and have some personal time, it is essential for physical and mental health. It is fine to say 'no' to bosses, etc if they expect you to be available at all times (unless your job requires it, such as some corporate IT personnel). With many people still working from home due to covid-19 it is more important than ever for people to log off and tune out at the end of their shift and not think about work until their next shift. Most people are only paid for a fixed number of hours per week and do not get paid overtime, so they should not be expected to be available outside their designated and contracted working hours. Having said that, if there is an emergency at work and your skills/expertise are urgently required then it is fair enough, provided you are appropriately compensated for your time.

stewart bookworm
  • 13th Apr 2021 11:30am

Irrelevant to me as I am retired, but yes give me a break to a stressed out job. All a person may want is me time by themselves or family

  • 13th Apr 2021 11:10am

In today's world I believe it is necessary to have total time off as it's much more stressful than jobs were in the past.

  • 13th Apr 2021 08:00am

Of course afterhour is your hour no employer should hassle their employee because employee are paid for after hour

  • 13th Apr 2021 01:20am

When you get a job leave everything behind door when you enter your workplace.concentrate on work do it best you can and finish it best way you can

  • 12th Apr 2021 06:01pm

Employers should give employees a say on their employment arrangements

  • 11th Apr 2021 07:43pm

We need rest days or hours to mentally re-set if not just physically for some people.
I have one of my roles as 'always on at work' and have to fit lunch into the working hours whilst being 'on'. I find it incredibly hard to function without regular food and on days when no one can give me a lunch or dinner break sometimes it is a struggle to make it through the shift. And to do the work correctly! I can only imagine being 'on' for 24/7. Though sometimes my brain won't switch off between work shifts and I can imagine the mental load

  • 11th Apr 2021 04:05pm

Honestly no one should be “Always on” in their roles as it affects a person mentally as well as physically.
Just from my experience when I am working non-stop for 3-4 days straight my brain stops functioning optimally and I tend to lose focus from other things. Work culture should definitely change to allow employees to disconnect and focus on their health and mental well-being.

  • 11th Apr 2021 01:07pm

I like my technology to stay up to date with family and friends, but I can easily stop whenever I need to take a breath and look at the big picture, how I live and enjoy my retirement.

  • 11th Apr 2021 01:04pm

I'm fortunate that I don't work or have the need to online, I'm not any good with technology, I'm too old and past caring about such things. I'm 70 now and like to live a quiet, peaceful life without such trivial things.

  • 11th Apr 2021 12:59am

When you get a job leave everything behind door when you enter your workplace.concentrate on work do it best you can and finish it best way you can

  • 11th Apr 2021 12:37am

Outside of work hours, every employee has the right to be able to disconnect. I believe it actually is an occupational health and safety issue because without sufficient rest, any person will suffer stress which can lead to a myriad of negative issues ... so being "always-on" is actually counter-productive. At the commencement of employment, this issue should be addressed so there is no grey area and a contract should be signed. I know of somebody who used to be woken up all hours of the night regarding particular maintenence issues, as he was on salary in a supervisory role - the next day, he would not be able to recall specific details of the conversations due to always being exhausted - eventually, he emotionally burnt out, took the matter to HR and as expected, was demoted. This type of scenario seems to be on the increase across many work places.

  • 10th Apr 2021 10:13pm

Of course we should all have the right to disconnect - it is unhealthy to think otherwise. But it also depends on the role/job title of the employee - for example a small business owner would want to be contacted by staff if there was anything that required their attention, and a manager may find it easier to field the odd phonecall during time-off rather than deal with the aftermath of a wrong decision made in their absence. The latter is the case for my husband - despite having very competent staff working for him, he is contactable at home by the senior staff if they require his expertise and, because they don't abuse this convenience, it does not impact on our family time. It is the responsibility of both parties to ensure that this convenience isn't taken for granted and abused.

  • 10th Apr 2021 04:43pm

The issue is with smart phones. We don't switch off because people can always reach us and we are tempted to check emails and messages. We need self discipline and to manage the expectations of the people we work for so we get work life balance and dont burn out.

  • 9th Apr 2021 06:59pm

My last role was as the manager of an interstate branch of a recruitment company and due to the nature of the main industry we worked with, I was expected to be available 24/7. After 12 months I was feeling burnt out and set some time limits in place where I was not to be contacted after 8pm weekdays and the weekends were all mine (except for real emergencies). I then trained my assistant to handle some of the more minor day to day 'emergencies', with the same time limitations applying. The hardest part was getting clients to understand that not everything was an issue that needed immediate attention. In the end we were able to be in the situation of switching off from work and taking time for ourselves.

  • 9th Apr 2021 04:48pm

Yes absolutely I’m expected to always be able to be contacted 24/7, which does not promote or allow a work-life balance. I have only recently made the conscious decision to not always check work emails on days off, not answer the phone every single time it rings, and not reply immediately to text messages. If it’s important they can leave a voicemail and I’ll respond when it’s convenient to me on my time off. It affects my family life and my ability to switch off from work, and it leads to burnout and lack of motivation. I don’t want to have to switch my phone off just so my employer can’t call me; I should be able to use my personal device however I please when not at work. The onus should be on employers to respect the work-life balance and boundaries of staff, and not demand they always be contactable and on-call without pay.

Larissa 31243781
  • 9th Apr 2021 11:06am

I turn off my work mobile phone and work laptop when I finish my work day.
My personal mobile phone is not used for work related matters, and my Employer respects that.

  • 9th Apr 2021 11:03am

Yes, and it is the reason I quit my job last week. I would get contacted on my days off and expected to come in and alter my 2 consecutive days off once a month to "work" on a Monday. I also had to come in 3 times in 3 months as someone didnt go in to open the store and I was on my days off..and had 12 missed calls.
My boundaries include not having work people on my social media so I don't have that as a means of contact. Not always having my phone or connected watch on during days off.
The onus should be that there is a cluster manager on duty each weekend to cover such issues to answer calls, and organize coverage should stores need it.
There should also be a direct phone line for sick leave to head office that you call before hours, and all "sick leave" should have certificates submitted via this channel not to your direct manager so they get that time off/down time.
The onus is on the company to provide such a service and manager this as part of their employee performance also.

  • 9th Apr 2021 08:08am

Everyone should have the right to disconnect at any time as needed. Overcoming the expectation to be always switched on is difficult but necessary. This can be done through communication. Setting ground rules and boundaries with your supervisor. Being clear about your needs. Turning off your work phone/computer outside of work hours is a good place to start. It is important to regularly reconsider and renegotiate the boundaries you set to ensure you're still achieving what you need to and getting the chance to turn off. The onus should be on both employers and employees. It's a matter of working together for the best outcome. So employees should be expressing their needs re switching off but employers should also be aware of employees needs and checking in with them.

  • 8th Apr 2021 11:53pm

What "always on" culture? If its outside work hours I let the call go to message bank, a few customers excepted. If its outside work hours I don't answer emails. I don't know anyone who does.

Demanding work outside of paid hours is nothing to do with culture, its straight up abuse and should not be tolerated. Set boundaries and stick to them.

  • 8th Apr 2021 11:09pm

Hi Taylor
Should we have the right to disconnect? A very fervent yes, everyone should have the right to disconnect from work or even the pressure of managing a home and family, or anything that might consume them emotionally and mentally. Without researching the topic, I’d stick my neck out and suggest that psychologists would agree that disconnects of that kind would be essential for maintaining a healthy mind. Interestingly I’ve known some, people in my work life that so define themselves by their work, that they don’t allow themselves to disconnect…I’ve never bothered to drill down to why though, whether they think they’re so indispensable that they need to be reached at all times, whether they are control freaks. But that aside, anyone who wants to disconnect from whatever, work, society, family or friends should have the right to do so. They’ll come back all the better for having that down time.
Other related questions might be:
Do your bosses want employees to disconnect?
Do employees stay constantly connected to their work as a strategy to attaining future promotions or to avoid being discharged at the next organizational restructure?

Does the ‘Always on’ work culture affect you?
Now that I’m retired, no. I'm sure that it must have an effect on those who keep themselves 'always on'. I'd only be guessing, but I suspect, when they retire, they will likely feel lost. Those that define themselves by their work, may feel like an addict going 'cold turkey'.
For me, when I was working, though I could never be certain, I suspect it had some affect on my career… if a manager ‘owns you’ 24/7 as opposed to someone who leaves his/her work behind when they clock off, who would that manager look more favourably upon? When I was working, I gave my best on every project and yes, occasionally did unpaid work for things that just needed to be done on tight deadlines, BUT when I was on leave or outside of work hours…I switched off my phone as readily as I switched off work.

If you're asking this question generally, it would have to affect you, and probably present itself as feelings of'd hear comments like I'm sick of this place or I'm sick of work. I could liken it to the way a mother might feel if she was 'always on' for her children...if she couldn't share the load of raising a family with her partner then the end result would be physical and mental fatigue. Everyone needs down time to just switch off, meditate, listen to their favourite music or lose themselves in a hobby.

  • 8th Apr 2021 10:01pm

Everyone has the right to disconnect when their shift is over. If they don't then their mental health can suffer. Covid is a classic example of this. So many people had to work from home because they couldn't go to the office. Everything was on-line with Zoom meetings/Team meetings, which is just 2 types of meetings I know of. I have now retired but I was a carer when I worked and was on-call for the agency in case a carer became sick and couldn't look after their client. I was always given the option to say no, but if you didn't take the job then you felt like you would not be given any other jobs. I was a carer who went to clients homes to look after them and I really loved my job, loved my regular clients and did everything to the best of my ability for the other clients I also had to look after. By the time I retired (which I didn't want to do), I only had 2 clients. What I used to do in the early days of my career, (OHS was not known much about) but we did what we were told to do if we wanted to keep our job. By the end of my career, it was OHS that put an end to my career. The reason I loved my job was because I would look after the elderly and I might be the only person to see them all day. I loved listening to them and their stories they would talk about. If I was having only a few clients for the day, I could spend extra time with them, then I would. I lost my parents when I was young and my grandparents lived in England, so I didn't have the stories told to me. If people took the time to listen to our elderly citizens, then they would understand how hard their life was when they were young and how they coped during the wars. The history of their lives is just so fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them and didn't mind the extra time I spent with them.

  • 8th Apr 2021 08:47pm

Always separate work from home! It’s far too easy for boundaries to be blurred, especially working from home. There needs to be self discipline. Leave the desk, workspace, phone, computer, whatever. Mentally and physically you will feel better for doing so. Unless you are paid/compensated for work done after hours there should be no need for any phone contact or email exchanges for work purposes. Work, rest and play, 8 hours of each is the rule of thumb.

  • 8th Apr 2021 08:38pm

I use to work in marketing and part of my job was managing the business' social media pages. I was expected to respond to customers outside of work hours and monitor social media post interaction at all times. I didn't like this as I was being paid minimum wage and not being paid for the work I had to do outside of work. Needless to say I no longer am at this job and eventually had enough of it.

  • 8th Apr 2021 07:54pm

Yes we do have a right to disconnect from our workplace. I think if your company has a good WHS work ethic then there should be no problem with this at all. Management should set boundary's for this to happen eapecially if there are any workplace grievences being processed.

  • 8th Apr 2021 07:52pm

I've been retired for many years so this no longer bothers me, but I believe that every employee, whether they work from home, or are classed as 'essential services' should have the gift of having regular down time. Supposedly we have a 40 hour work week, no matter what employment area we're in, so calls outside of our employment times should be limited to real emergencies!

Frank Yates
  • 8th Apr 2021 06:31pm

I get phone calls from early morning, late at night and on weekends and often get called out to sort out problems at work.
I have been called in to work while on holidays and the boss doesn't want to pay the penalty rates. Instead the want to give me toil for the hours worked I.E 1 hour of work = 1 hour off.
I have started putting my phone on silent so I am not disturbed at home.

  • 8th Apr 2021 06:24pm

I use 2 phones, 1 for work & 1 for real life. Work one goes off at 5PM & stays off until 8AM. Weeknds it stays off. I have little to do with anyone from work outside of hours.

  • 9th Apr 2021 11:04am
I use 2 phones, 1 for work & 1 for real life. Work one goes off at 5PM & stays off until 8AM. Weeknds it stays off. I have little to do with anyone from work outside of hours.

thats fantastic!!! I need to do this.

  • 8th Apr 2021 06:02pm

I believe everyone is entitled to time off from work. Work life is very demanding now a days and we all need a day to switch off, unwind and restart ourselves. It will help with both mental and physical health.

  • 8th Apr 2021 05:42pm

Definitely for the sake of your health and for good quality family time particularly when the children are young. We are self employed small business owners and for 10 years we lived onsite in a 7 day a week business. People could not respect our days off and we were quite often forced to go out for the day to in fact have some down time. Mobile phones are wonderful things but being always contactable can be a little intrusive at times.

Momma Bear
  • 8th Apr 2021 05:28pm

I retired in 2014, but when I was working I had been in my Government job for 15 years and the first 10 years were wonderful was able to take leave anytime I wanted and able to build up flex time, but things changed I was moved to another department and when I applied for leave had to wait to find out if it would be approved or not. I could not make any plans as when I did they would say too many were taking leave and I could not have it. Just before I retired my son and I were planning to go to USA we were planning to go in July and I put in for leave months in advance as we had planned to go to the Travel Expo in January and I wanted to book our flights, but they would not come back to me so I booked it anyway, was lucky it was approved.

Momma Bear
  • 8th Apr 2021 05:27pm

I retired in 2014, but when I was working I had been in my Government job for 15 years and the first 10 years were wonderful was able to take leave anytime I wanted and able to build up flex time, but things changed I was moved to another department and when I applied for leave had to wait to find out if it would be approved or not. I could not make any plans as when I did they would say too many were taking leave and I could not have it. Just before I retired my son and I were planning to go to USA we were planning to go in July and I put in for leave months in advance as we had planned to go to the Travel Expo in January and I wanted to book our flights, but they would not come back to me so I booked it anyway, was lucky it was approved.

  • 8th Apr 2021 05:17pm

Where I worked (before I retired) and the job I did, there was no issue with being contacted on weekends or holidays. If however, if I was needed after hours, I was ok with that because I could claim overtime (which I sometimes did). It is really a difficult one though. For example, the Police and other essential services (nurses, doctors, firies, paramedics) are really never "off duty" are they, and I dont think they really expect to be. They are special people, dedicated to humanity and the community and I have always thought that they are well and truly underpaid and underestimated by the rest of us for what they do.

  • 8th Apr 2021 05:05pm

I think every one has a right to their holidays and days off and not expect to be on call unless there is an emergency .Front workers ,doctors , nurses, police they really need that day off to recharge and be with their families even if that mean employing more personel so be it.

  • 8th Apr 2021 04:31pm

Retirement has a major benifit being that I no longer have to be on. My working life had me always on as I was on call for computer systems support 24 x 7 365 days a week, I learnt to cope but sometimes I did unplug things just to have me time or a nap without someone ringing. We do need to have off time just to enjoy life and the simple things without interruptions.

  • 8th Apr 2021 04:22pm

There is no doubt that we need to be able to disconnect and it should be maintained as a right not a priviledge. The right to disconnect is a OHS issue and if pushed to far will burn people out physically, mentally , psychologically and emotionally depending on the circumstances of their role. The simple fact is if there is a need for people to be on longer than their agreed contractual time then there needs to be more people employed to cover the range of time that the role demands not put onto the worker to be expected to do more than is reasonable in terms of OHS. The 8 hour day is designed for workers health as is annual leave and sick leave which exist for rest and relaxation. As is the hours of a role is designed for the health of a worker. Workers being asked to do excessive hours is a risk to themselves and to thecompany they work for and should be capped, restricted or outlawed depending on the industry and role especially high stress or high pressure roles.

  • 8th Apr 2021 04:18pm

No way! You are contracted to work for a specific period and time outside of this is your personal time. If they want to use more of my time, they can buy it, just like the common person is expected to pay for goods or services.
Now if you want to spend your personal time volunteering for your employer, or any other employer, then that's your personal choice.

Once I have left the workplace, I am lucky that I can switch off with no issues.
There are a million and one other things going on in my life for me to think about, so work is not a priority when I'm not working.
For examples, I have tv shows, books, games, pets, garden, neighbors, friends, family, food, alcohol, travel (both local and international), just to name some of my interests.

The onus is on the employee: as above, if they want to continue to work then that's their problem.
However if it's an expectation of the employer, if it's not in the employment contract, then it's a no go. Also, the out of hours you put in for working purposes would further average out your wage, therefore it may lead you to working 'under' the minimum wage and you could take your employer to court for modern slavery. Now that's a HUGE topic we could talk about for hours!

  • 8th Apr 2021 04:12pm

I'm in the military. I need to be contactable 24/7... and quite often I am contacted at all hours. It is very draining, it quite often seems like even when on leave I have to stay up to date with what's happening otherwise I jist have 3 times as much work to do when I get back to work.

  • 8th Apr 2021 04:01pm

People’s lives don’t stop when we stop work, so inevitably people are going to need assistance all the time; not just during work hours. Having said that, I have an Autistic child who needs full time care so I know how utterly draining and continuous the caring role can be. Even the most conscientious and caring human beings need time for themselves. It’s not being selfish; it’s actually being intelligent and realistic enough to understand that you cannot help anyone if you yourself are not firing on all cylinders. Management need to care for their staff and utilise Human Resources in such a way that their staff don’t experience burn out or operate less efficiently. The old style of management where you crack the whip has gone. Managers must be empathetic and acutely involved with the workers on the ground. They must recognise when they need rewarding and when they need care. They must tell them to take time for themselves and for their families. Without this we are not truly living; we are just slaves to the processes in place. If we don’t get the mental care we need, our strength diminishes and our resolve to be the best we can be on the job is eroded. The police force definitely has a tough and important role to play for society and I welcome the care that is being displayed by management to preserve the health of their employees. Perhaps they need to spend more money and recruit more constables so that everyone can get the support they need whilst the community remains protected and safe.

No one makes it on their own in this life. The sooner we start to support each other with the smaller stuff, the big picture takes care of itself.

  • 8th Apr 2021 03:36pm

Work-life balance is a must.
So, I prefer not to be 'Always On'.

  • 8th Apr 2021 03:09pm

As a teacher over some 50 years, I was always on-call even before the days of mobile phones, computers and the Internet. Back in the late 60s and 70s in Melbourne's Western suburbs my students came from so many migrant backgrounds facing conflicting cultural expectations, language problems, bullying and often domestic violence. They knew where I lived and my phone number. Sometimes I found a desperate teen on my doorstep or calling from a phone box. My husband and I never said, "No!" A child's safety and emotional state was priority. Mostly, it was just a matter of taking them home, talking with the parents and offering help to find people qualified people than us, for long term assistance. Sometimes it just needed us to explain what was not permitted in Australia even if it was their tradition. Sometimes it was explaining to youngsters what their parents could not express or providing parents with English classes or groups to find Australian friends. I have been the liaison between police, the youngster and parents or Government officials. Moving to Queensland and the arrival of mobile phones, internet etc. I still was available for students, parents, family and friends, who needed me outside the family, community, classroom or school restrictions. Even though I am now well retired, I am still available night and day for several former students and friends who might look on me as their one person who will listen, not judge and just be there no matter when. I know I have saved a couple of lives just by being available to listen or talk through the night. On occasion I have been the first non family member called to the hospital after a tragic accident . I have twice spent days in ICU talking to students in a coma at their parents' request. I always advocate, "Teaching is a lifestyle - not a career". I am no saint as anyone will tell you, but I just have to be "ON" if someone needs me. How could I live with myself if I turned myself "OFF"?

  • 8th Apr 2021 05:14pm
You raise some really interesting points Eileen. As a teacher of 8 years and in a small rural community, I face the same issues today that you are talking about in your post. I find it difficult...

So true! My 'off time' was going camping or on holidays with my own children and later travelling overseas. However emails still keep me in touch these days.

  • 8th Apr 2021 04:42pm
As a teacher over some 50 years, I was always on-call even before the days of mobile phones, computers and the Internet. Back in the late 60s and 70s in Melbourne's Western suburbs my students came...

You raise some really interesting points Eileen. As a teacher of 8 years and in a small rural community, I face the same issues today that you are talking about in your post. I find it difficult to say 'No', especially when approached by a parent in the supermarket, or when having students turn up on my doorstep. The shutdowns over Covid last year were especially difficult as kids were working all hours of the day and night. As I was working from home, my hours increased exponentially as it was easy to sit down at the laptop in the office to check on emails and then find a new stack from students all wanting help on different sections. Some emails would take up to an hour to respond to.

I believe these experiences have lead me to the point of saying it is important to be able to switch off from work. I can't see how the phrase "Teaching is a lifestyle, not a career" leads to a sustainable idea of work/life balance. Current estimates have 1 in 5 teachers that graduate never even registering to teach. 50% of teachers will leave the profession within the first 5 years of graduating. As they say "2 and through, but 5 and survive". It seems to me, that as a general rule (with exceptions I'm admit), the teachers that make it to five years and survive are the ones that find that balance between work and time off. I know at my school, we're encouraged to go hard during term time, but to make sure we take time off during school holidays. A lot of leeway is given during term time when school leadership knows that the teaching staff has put in a huge effort - e.g. thinking report writing or exams, etc.

For the sake of the future of the teaching profession, we need to give teachers the time to separate from work and not to be on call 24/7.

  • 8th Apr 2021 02:43pm

It depends on the job and depends on the circumstance. There can never be a hard and fast rule. A life could be literally at stake in the medical profession or Police Force. However, it might be "left until Monday" if not essential in another, quite different situation. An employer can't expect to legislate over such things, but obviously has an expectation his/her employee will be flexible enough to be accommodating. It works both ways of course and the employer should show his appreciation in a material way if possible and extra leave might be appropriate. It all boils down to one word - Consideration. That's from both sides. Boundaries as such, cannot be set and sensible people compromise mutually.

  • 8th Apr 2021 02:08pm

Look if an urgent need arises employers need to contact key people therefore I disagree

  • 8th Apr 2021 01:54pm

I am no longer in the workforce, but everyone is entitled to some downtime, you shouldn't be expected to be on call 24/7. Surely most workplaces have a designated second-in-command that can take calls when the "boss" is on leave, clocked off for the day. To avoid fatigue, mental health issues etc, you really must have a turn off switch for your phones, computers etc. To me, when you walk out the office door or wherever workplace you are, that means work is left there, not taken home with you.

  • 8th Apr 2021 01:30pm

In my experience while often told to find a work/life balance, the reality is that you need to complete all the work assigned and if that means overtime or being 'on call' that's what you should do. But it's nothing new, I remember as a kid when my Dad took annual leave and on day one he had over 150 calls from office and customers in 1/2 a day. We ended up having to change our phone number to stop the calls

  • 8th Apr 2021 01:23pm

As a researcher, uni lecturer and student supervisor, I have established a 'contact me anytime for help' standard. Logically, I would respond during work times. Realistically, I will respond just before dinner, in the middle of a workout, when in the car..whenever I have time. So it is up to me to enforce that boundary and therefore that work-life balance. Unfortunately, these roles aren't great for that, because generally academia is quite a fertile place of 'always on' culture.
I also think Australia is particularly bad at intelligent workplace practices with health and wellbeing.
So I would say you need to set these boundaries for yourself and even moreso in industries that have this culture. It doesn't make it right and that needs to change, but a positive in COVID in that it has probably fastracked that.

  • 8th Apr 2021 12:57pm

When you get a job leave everything behind door when you enter your workplace.concentrate on work do it best you can and finish it best way you can

  • 8th Apr 2021 12:50pm

There is an semi expectation in my workplace that I am contactable. If work is looking to replace a shift they will message at any given time. There are also departments in my workplace that have dedicated group chats for communication outside of work hours. I refuse to join the chat and no one has insisted I do as I believe they know it cannot be mandatory. With regards to being messaged occasionally I reply at my will. The flip side to that is of course I can't expect a manager to answer a message I send them out of hours if I have need to.
I think everyone has the right to disconnect, once you leave the workplace your time is yours and that should be respected. Unfortunately exceptions occur where something can't wait until work hours. I'm talking emergencies here not just everyday issues. I have actually had a discussion with my senior regarding when outside communication is mutually acceptable so the odd time I get a message I know it's something important. It is still up to me whether I respond though and so far this works.

  • 8th Apr 2021 12:04pm

I'm a mother of 3 and an additional 2 (defacto step kids) every weekend. I'm not employed and haven't been in the work force for a LONG time so I don't know what it's like. But I can relate it to the long hours I need to cater to my children; they're the work and I'm a slave labourer.
We all need to click out sometimes for our mental health. It gets hectic. Especially while trying to do the work you're required to, remaining professional regardless whatever mood you're in, ontop of whatever personal issues at home you need to pretend isn't plaguing you.
It's like setting boundaries. It's courtesty to call people from midday-evening. This should be regarded the same way. Allow some privacy.

  • 8th Apr 2021 11:36am

Not just me in my role, but many in my industry are expected to constantly be 'on'. This creates tension and anxiety, and makes us feel as though if we don't constantly keep contactable, we'll appear lax.

  • 8th Apr 2021 11:21am

I believe it's always best to first try to obtain an amicable agreement with your employer re work conditions. However, if a problem exists with an employer not respecting an employee's leave or other time away from work such a law definitely needs to operational to prevent personal contact unless for the stated reasons, as of course it then simply becomes harassment. Most employees today give 105% in effort and time to employers anyway and one would think that should be enough - and many are forced to take at least some leave due to stress they're being forced to work under. A person's time away from work should be totally respected. Life is far too short (even though many employers seem to have not realised this yet!).

  • 8th Apr 2021 11:14am

absolutely people should I believe by people disconnecting they in turn and in the long run are less stressed and more productive.
Nobody should be expected to be "on call" 24/7 unless they are a dr or surgeon etc but like I said everyone is entitled to some down time and be able to switch off

  • 8th Apr 2021 11:09am

The phenomenon of ‘Always on’ took itself to new heights during the work from home period in the Covid lockdowns. At least when you leave a work place and go home at the end of the day, you are not always bringing your ‘work’ home with you. I’ve just spent two weeks with my daughter and son in law. He’s a man who is ‘always on’! There seems to never be a time when he’s not being rung, sent emails or messages, which he needs to deal with. Even when he goes to bed, these needs do not stop! As someone else said, eventually everyone reaches a breaking point and will collapse under the pressures they are dealing with. The need really is to recognise that you are not a machine, that you’re under too much outside pressure and that you need to say no more and take time out for yourself to recover and regain the energy to face the daily grind. This phenomenon can be either caused by higher management and the fear of not performing well, or can be self inflicted by a need to prove yourself or to stay competitive!
In the workplace, a get together with colleagues to discuss a strategy to deal with this is a good start. I’m sure most people are not alone in coping with these outside pressures. A think tank to find ways fo approaching the problems will help unload some of the stress. Collectively, a solution might be found that can be taken to management to help sort the problems. I know at times there are deadlines and targets to be met, when everyone needs to give as much as possible, but if there is a rewards negotiated for time off in lieu, then most people don’t mind these periods of high demand on their time. Extra holidays might be just what’s needed to unwind and refresh to come back looking forwards to getting into work again!

  • 8th Apr 2021 11:09am

An employer pays a worker to be available for their job during agreed working hours. If they are expected to be available/on call outside those hours, they are paid an agreed on-call allowance. No allowance = not on call, and the employee has EVERY right to not make themselves available outside their paid and agreed hours ("reasonable overtime" notwithstanding). Hubby was on-call for his employer for 20 years, and the stress was simply not worth the pittance he got paid. Now he is no longer available outside his agreed contractual hours, and his mental health is so much better. Me personally - I have never been in a role where work outside rostered hours was expected, and I would not allow myself to be in a role where substantial overtime or irregular hours outside a set roster would be expected - my mental health is fragile enough without that kind of stress.

Both employees and employers have the responsibility to ensure both are on the same page with regard to being contactable outside the normal work environment/contracted work hours - if it is an expectation from the employer, they must make sure the employee is fully aware and fully compensated for additional and unsociable hours, and an employee must properly inform themselves of any company cultural expectation of additional hours or availability outside contracted hours. It is the disconnect between these expectations and reality that causes the most stress - and employees should have the right to a minimum of 8 hours away from their job with zero contact from the employer during that time. It used to be legislated (I am unsure if it still is) that every employee be entitled to a minimum of 8 continuous hours away from their job between shifts (including social media and phone/email contact), but it appears this line is being blurred in this time of covid (work from home, zoom/jabber/teams etc). Stronger boundaries need to be established and agreed by both employee and employer, and it should always be a two-way street.

  • 8th Apr 2021 11:08am

I have a number of friends in the blue uniform service. The feeling of being "on call" 25/8 is one of their highest stress contributors. Any move to provide more mental freedom should be seen as a positive.

  • 8th Apr 2021 10:20am

After working in a career where my husband was “always connected” for 6 years, he finally broke. He has been on stress leave for 2 months & we are not sure if our marriage will survive. The stress of being connected to your job leaves loved ones to feel as if you don’t care as much about us as the person does about their job. At the end of the day, it’s just a job. No matter how hard you work & how great your results are, if you were to leave, they just hire someone to take your place. It’s just a job. Your own life should always be a priority & it cannot be if your private time is constantly interrupted by your work.

Momma Bear
  • 8th Apr 2021 05:29pm
After working in a career where my husband was “always connected” for 6 years, he finally broke. He has been on stress leave for 2 months & we are not sure if our marriage will survive. The stress...

I retired in 2014, but when I was working I had been in my Government job for 15 years and the first 10 years were wonderful was able to take leave anytime I wanted and able to build up flex time, but things changed I was moved to another department and when I applied for leave had to wait to find out if it would be approved or not. I could not make any plans as when I did they would say too many were taking leave and I could not have it. Just before I retired my son and I were planning to go to USA we were planning to go in July and I put in for leave months in advance as we had planned to go to the Travel Expo in January and I wanted to book our flights, but they would not come back to me so I booked it anyway, was lucky it was approved.

  • 7th Apr 2021 08:41pm

This is a problem which encroaches on family life and relaxation time. I think it is wrong to be always be contactable outside of work. If it is that the business expects this, then in this case people need to be paid on call compensation. People expect an instant reply if they text you, but if it is the weekend or after work hours I reply the next working hours. I think only an emergency such as equipment stopping working/malfunctioning which is pertinent to operations, a fire, flooding, storm damage etc warrants action from a high level manager but not many other minor issues, which can be dealt with in working hours. People can't turn off their phones though because we still want to be contactable to family and friends. The onus is on the employers to make it possible for workers to disconnect to improve their mental health and lower stress levels, otherwise they are always ON and distracted from quality time.

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