The World Today for February 28, 2023


Don’t Leave a Message


Move over, quiet quitting. Employees who are sick and tired of bosses calling them after the end of the business day and at weekends are pushing for laws to maintain boundaries between work and non-work time.

In Kenya, for example, lawmakers have proposed a law that would grant workers the right to ignore their boss’s calls unless they are on the clock, reported CBS News. If workers respond while off duty, furthermore, they are entitled to compensation.

“Technology has led to employees being called late at midnight and yet some of them are non-essential staff,” Kenyan senator Samson Cherargei told the Star, a local newspaper. “Most of these issues have led to (the) breakdown of families and lack of quality time.”

An employer association, the Federation of Kenya Employers, said the proposal was an intrusion into the private sector that would make it harder for companies to hire workers and more difficult for officials to entice firms operating on the black market to become legitimate, wrote the Monitor, an Uganda-based newspaper.

Such debates are raging around the world. After France enacted a similar law in 2017, researchers said workers become more productive due to more leisure time, according to research cited in Quartz. German car giant Volkswagen even turns off its email servers after work ends, added National Public Radio. Others, however, say the so-called “right to disconnect” hamstrings those who want to work and earn more.

Remote working is also helping to drive the issue. Working from home or other non-office locations can increase workers’ “well-being and work engagement,” but only if they work regular hours, the World Economic Forum noted. Otherwise, work takes over one’s life and the benefits of remote work plummet.

Other dimensions of the issue complicate that story, however. Laws stipulating the right to disconnect really only apply to knowledge workers, argued Toronto Metropolitan University professional communication professor Ope Akanbi in the Conversation. Ambulance drivers, for example, work in person or they’re not working at all. Lawyers, doctors, media, marketing and other professionals easily blend work and life, on the other hand. The government won’t alter their situations. They need to figure out their own work-life balances.

Filipinos are now addressing those questions. Michael Tan, a columnist for the Philippines-based English-language newspaper the Inquirer, largely supported a right-to-disconnect bill now under consideration in the capital of Manila. But he noted that he wouldn’t want the law to prevent him from taking after-hours meetings with others in different time zones.

Whether one is a lawmaker or a middle manager, micromanaging the world’s workers is arguably folly.

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