The Right to Disconnect in a Hyper Connected Era

 

The modern work environment has been drastically affected by the era of digital communication and information technologies. Computers, tablets and smartphones seem to be part of a mandatory items list nowadays. Therefore, the boundary between home life and work life has been reduced by new digital tools into non-work hours, leading to excessive daily life interference.

Certainly the internet has brought countless possibilities and new means of entertainment, learning, and working. Furthermore, the internet has broken down barriers that separate disparate segments of our lives to create a constantly connected world. “Hyperconnection” is related to irritability, anxiety, insomnia and isolation due extending on-work hours. It is caused by the erosion of barriers between private and work life, also contributing to elevated patterns of sedentary behavior and mortality. Our research illustrates a possibility that new technologies may meddle in the private lives of employees despite bringing  flexibility and promptitude. How do we establish limits to this connection to our work in a digital era?

The right to disconnect has been included in the law of several countries as well as the policies of many companies. In 2016, the French Government passed the El Khomri Law to amend the French Labour Code to include the right to disconnect from work-related technologies. It was adopted in response to a report on the impact of digital technologies on labour, which supported a right to “professional disconnection”. The reform recommended such a measure on the basis that  balance between work and private life is necessary for digital transformations to have a positive effect on a workers’ quality of life. This report identified several risks to psycho-social behavior, including emotional and cognitive overload. The French Government deemed the introduction of the right to disconnect necessary for the health of workers throughout the country. In a related example,, several German companies have implemented similar policies that guarantee employees a right to disconnect by  placing limits on the amount of work-related digital connection after work hours.

In 2012, the European Commission organized a body of research entitled “The onlife initiative: concept reengineering for rethinking societal concerns in the digital transition” about how the development of information and communication technologies can have a radical impact on human well-being.

Meanwhile in Brazil, the recent Labour Law Reform has created the “telejob”, which consists of using the internet and other forms of telecommunication over distance to provide a service (article 75-B, Consolidation of the Labour Law). In other words, the Brazilian labour law reform extended the workplace to workers personal lives, assisted by the new technologies. The work relationship has gradually become online, requiring regulation of its interference.

There are so many contradictions that surround the world of work, including lack of job stability and workers’ rights, the role of new challenges in a hyperconnected era. In such manner, the right to disconnect from work is a right of all society. Viewed in another way, non-work in present days is even a factor of human nature redemption. However, this situation is far from producing a rupture in the legal standards of human work protection. This new world of contradictory work brings to the jurists the challenge of finding these answers, which are also intended to preserve the society health.


André Tito da Motta Oliveira

André Tito da Motta Oliveira

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