New policies regarding disconnecting from work came into play earlier this month. How can you look after your mental health away from the office?
As of June 1, 2022, all Ontario workplaces are required to have a disconnecting from work policy for all staff. According to the Employment Standards Act (ESA),
“Disconnecting from work” means not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from the performance of work.” 2021, c. 35, Sched. 2, s. 3.
While leaving work at work can be challenging for some, being present during your personal time is important for your mental health. Let’s look at a few ways you can stay connected while being disconnected.
Email signatures are a way to showcase information about your organization like a phone number, address and links to social media, headed by your name. A great addition to your signature is a sentence or two regarding your working hours and that it’s okay for the person you are emailing to not feel obligated to reply right away if outside of their working hours. Being clear about your hours of work helps to set healthy boundaries and expectations among co-workers. Here is an example of an addition to your email signature:
My working day may not be your working day. Please do not feel obliged to reply to this email outside of your normal working hours.
You can also add your working hours, like this:
Please note: my working hours are Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm.
Delaying or scheduling emails is a great tool offered by many email clients that allows your email to be sent at a later time or date if you are working outside of regular working hours like late nights or weekends, or maybe the person you are contacting is out of office.
Be it Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar or something else, use your preferred calendar application to select dates and times for taking breaks and set these periods as busy to let others know you are unavailable or away from your workstation. This could be used for lunches, coffee breaks, working sprints or focus time, vacation days, appointments and more. Many email clients also allow you to set working hours within your calendar.
Work Cellphone Use
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have provided more workers with company cellphones and more staff are using their personal numbers for work-related use. Do not feel pressured to answer calls and texts related to work if you are offline for the day. Take note of who called or messaged and get back to them the next working day. Listing your working hours in your voicemail message could be helpful as well in case the person trying to contact you would prefer to try again at a later time rather than leaving a message.
Respecting Co-Workers' Boundaries
Does your organization have flexible working hours? Consider this example.
Cody, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm:
Cody works in Human Resources. He has younger children that need to be at daycare for 8 am and he likes to exercise in the morning before starting his workday. His email signature and voicemail message are updated with information on his working hours. At 4:30 pm, Cody tried to give Emma a call about a project they had been working on together, but realized he had missed her for the day. Cody left a message about calling him back tomorrow morning to chat about the project and went about the remainder of his workday. At 5:30 pm, he leaves to walk the few blocks to pick up his kids from daycare.
Emma, 8 am – 4 pm:
Emma works in Finance and prefers an early start to her day. She takes afternoon and night classes at the local college where she’s working towards a certificate to advance her career. Doing this not only helps Emma but her organization as well. Much like Cody, Emma has her hours listed in her email signature and voicemail message. When Emma started work this morning, she noticed a message from Cody and gave him a call back when he was online at 9:30 am. They discuss the project and make a plan. At 4 pm, Emma logs off for the day and starts research on her latest school assignment.
Emma and Cody made sure neither of them felt pressured to answer right away during each other's personal time. This contributes to a healthy working relationship between Emma and Cody, which in turn, was reflected in their shared project.
Respecting your co-workers’ hours of work improves workplace psychological health and safety, helping workers feel their time away from the office matters as well as their time in the office (or home office of course).
PART VII.0.1 - Written Policy on Disconnecting from Work | Employment Standards Act (ESA)
Psychological Health and Safety | Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA)
Mental Health | PSHSA
Beyond Silence – Healthcare Workers | PSHSA
R2 for Leaders Building Resilient Organizations Distance Learning Program | PSHSA
ResilientME | PSHSA
Mental Health in The Workplace | Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD)