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Our 24/7 work culture is unsustainable. We need a right to disconnect

The legal right to disconnect from work email and phone calls has yet to catch on in the U.S. That shouldn’t stop companies from making it part of an employee well-being strategy, a Boomerang cofounder says.

Our 24/7 work culture is unsustainable. We need a right to disconnect
[Source photo: Rawpixel (paper, woman)]

The working world is changing, and the future of productivity looks different than in previous generations. Many of us work in the same spaces we live and the constant connectivity enabled by digital technologies (the average knowledge worker checks their email every 6 minutes) has blurred the boundaries between work and personal life.

This has led to increased stress, burnout, and mental health deterioration. In fact, in a Gitnux survey, 43% of survey respondents in more than 100 countries claimed to have experienced work-related stress. Yet only 26% of companies have an employee well-being strategy in place.

But how can the next generation of leaders shift this unsustainable work culture and create lasting change?

Enter: the right to disconnect. It’s a growing global movement that aims to alleviate “always available” culture by advocating for employees, and formalizing the right to disconnect from work outside their regular working hours.

For decades, the onus on finding a work-life balance has fallen solely on the individual, when it should fall on the company for which they work. The right to disconnect places the responsibility on company leaders to create an environment where disconnecting after work hours is not only allowed but encouraged and celebrated.

Emailing outside of work hours? That’s against policy. Contacting on vacation? Not allowed. Requesting tasks while someone is on parental leave? You guessed it, not on the right-to-disconnect’s watch.

This policy is legally mandated in a handful of countries—France, Portugal, Canada, Spain, and Kenya to name a few. But, between the glamorization of being overworked and the cultural individualism that is so pervasive in America, U.S. legislators have been slow to prioritize the right to disconnect. The only place in the U.S. where there has been any real effort to pass legislation is in New York City. In 2018, then-Councilman Rafael Espinal introduced a bill that would make it illegal for employers to require employees to check and respond to email and other digital communications outside work hours. The bill has not been discussed since 2019.

However, between the record levels of stress and burnout, with 59% of employees admitting to “quiet quitting,” more companies in the U.S. are still implementing their own right to disconnect policies, regardless of legal mandate. And it’s paying off. According to the Harvard Business Review, every dollar invested in wellness programs is returning in spades—in less turnover, healthcare issues, and illness-related absenteeism.

So, if you’re a company leader, considering a right-to-disconnect policy, where can you start? How do you know what to expect? How can you combat resistance to this change? Here are five challenges:


One concern when introducing a right to disconnect policy is the potential impact on productivity. Employers worry that allowing employees to disconnect from work outside of their designated hours might lead to reduced efficiency. However, the bigger concern should be the potential rate of burnout. This “always available” culture that has developed, especially since the start of the pandemic, has contributed to a decline in mental health for employees. In fact, The World Health Organization estimates an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression, anxiety disorders, and other conditions, costing the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

Creating policies that give your employees permission for a digital detox and time to disconnect can improve focus and productivity. Giving employees the time they need to recharge helps them create the right balance in their day, especially for remote workers, and builds in more physical separation between work and home life.


When considering a digital disconnect policy, companies with distributed teams, hybrid teams, or offices across multiple time zones can find it more complex to create a policy that meets all the needs. Defining boundaries for work-related communications across cultures and time zones is another critical challenge.

Employers must establish clear guidelines regarding when employees should and should not respond to emails or messages and what the exceptions are. This ensures that the policy maintains its intended purpose of allowing employees to disconnect from work outside their work hours while addressing the need for timely responses in specific situations.

Finding the right balance between these two aspects can be complex but is essential for the policy’s success. Using productivity tools such as Inbox Pause can allow employees to take control of when they receive emails. This helps create time for both focused work and better work-life balance.


Introducing a “right to disconnect” policy often requires a shift in the company culture. Companies that have previously encouraged constant connectivity may face resistance when implementing such a policy. Changing the culture to prioritize employee well-being and work-life balance can be met with skepticism. If the company’s culture has been one that prioritized overwork, it’s likely that late hours and an “always-available” mentality have been rewarded and applauded at your company. Building more defined lines between work and personal time may require active changes to the rewards systems at the different team levels and seeking ways to reward employees who use their PTO or don’t follow up on emails over the weekend, for example.

To overcome this challenge, employers must lead by example, communicate the benefits of the policy, and gradually foster a culture that values both productivity and personal time.


This also feeds into challenge 6, around understanding how to maintain flexibility in the workday while implementing a “right to disconnect” policy.  While the policy aims to protect employees’ personal time, it’s essential not to create rigid schedules that hinder work-life balance in other ways. Striking the right balance by allowing for flexible work arrangements that still respect the policy’s principles is a challenge that requires careful planning and execution.

This becomes more of a challenge when you have multiple sets of needs across the company. Productivity tools like Boomerang, Calendly, Asana, and others become essential when working with multiple time zones or locations or employees on different schedules. You can utilize tools that help manage the flow and timing of communications across colleagues to match the right working hours.


Humans are inherently resistant to change. That will be just as true as you introduce new policies that put employees in a place of uncertainty. Some employees may be comfortable with their current work habits and may resist the idea of disconnecting from work-related tasks outside of their working hours. Some may fear that you are taking away their flexibility in hours that they work.

With any new policy or change, make sure you have a strong change-management plan in place to help guide employees through. This should include effective communication, providing education on the benefits of the policy, and being receptive to employee concerns. Also, know that giving them time to adjust and adapt is key. The change curve shows that you’ll often see a dip in productivity as people learn a new path or method before the true ROI begins. Be patient and ensure that you’re supporting employees at every stage.

While a right to disconnect is not legally mandated in the U.S., implementing a digital wellness policy must be at a company’s core in order to align with the new workplace culture we find ourselves in. The only way to be an efficient and thoughtful leader in the next generation is to take on the responsibility of employee wellness, transforming the way we work with one another, and creating a sustainable work culture going forward.

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