How employers can protect employees’ personal time

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CEO & Founder at THE HR IC. Providing simple, affordable and time-saving HR tools for all levels of executives in an organization.

Three years after Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic, we have the opportunity to reflect on our business and leadership styles that will continue to help us learn and grow on this journey we call life. One point that has been a talking point in many organizations is employee personal time. What does that even mean with so many people working from home? Many organizations are conducting their own research to explore how and why a company should respect people’s personal time as they try to define what it means to be “off the clock”. As a business owner, I know there is no doubt that organizations value their employees if and when they work outside of their normal business hours; however, it is always possible for an employee to turn around and say to their boss, “It’s too much; I no longer work for free.” They can start asking for compensation or even pay back for extra time they worked in what the organization thought was good faith. So what can you do as a leader to help in these situations?

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Right to disconnect laws

Portugal enacted a law in 2022 that prohibits bosses from contacting an employee outside of working hours. Employers can be fined for violations; moreover, organizations are not allowed to monitor employees while they are at home. In 2022 I lived in Portugal myself and teleworked for a few months. While these new laws have been put in place, I couldn’t find any real data on how often these new laws are enforced. Because laws like these are such a constant topic of conversation, they can be a deterrent to organizations looking to push the boundaries.

Canada also has a similar “right to disconnect”. has entered into force in 2022. By comparison, the law only covers employers in Ontario with 25 or more employees; however, smaller employers can sometimes be scolded by their employees for not following the law, even though it is not required by law for smaller teams. The purpose of the law is for employers to respect their employees’ personal time outside office hours. However, each organization is allowed to create its own internal policies, which may include business hours, what is considered an emergency to be contacted, and “on-call” terms. Unless you’re a brick-and-mortar business, business hours are everywhere these days, which has its pros and cons.

However, once such laws are in place, they may evolve over time.

What organizations can do

In reality, we all know that life has gotten a little too busy, and it’s actually not a bad thing to have a similar process in every organization (even if the government doesn’t mandate it). The happier your employees are, the better brand ambassadors they are likely to be for your company and customers. They are also likely to be more loyal and productive in general.

So go ahead: don’t be afraid. Create a similar process for your business and consider incorporating some of the following ideas.

• Organize your business correspondence: explain to your employees that normal daily correspondence, telephone calls, meetings, emails and text messages must take place during your working hours and define what those are.

• If you want or need to send an e-mail outside these hours because it suits you better, you can; however, no one should be expected to respond until returning to work. If the matter requires urgent attention, please include the word “urgent” in the subject line. This will alert the recipient that they should deal with the matter as soon as possible.

Also keep in mind that many email platforms these days allow you to schedule your emails for a specific date and time, but many people have no idea that these features exist.

Another tip I give to clients is to create uninterrupted working hours. This allows people to focus on the tasks at hand. The companies that implemented this suggestion love it. They set aside two hours each day for uninterrupted work time – the same block of two hours for every employee across the company. It gives employees time during their shift where they can work in silence without internal interruptions. Employers can even encourage their employees to turn off their phones for those two hours to ensure the time is truly uninterrupted. This method allows employees to leave work feeling accomplished, which can help reduce stress.

Whatever you choose to do, making small adjustments to respect people’s personal time is something you should discuss in your company. No matter how small the changes you make, they can help relieve some of the current stress. The better the work environment you create for your employees, the better it will be for you as an employer.


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