Work – it is how 86% of Ontarians between the ages of 25 and 54 spend 1/3 of our lives. How we see our work and conduct that work has certainly changed during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Whether you are employed by a public or private company, the government or are self-employed, we have all been juggling home and work that has required some serious time management. So, one must ask, as we continue to stare at the green Zoom light, when should I sign off?

This week the Ontario government introduced legislation, Bill 27, Working for Workers Act, 2021, which will require workplaces with more than 25 employees to develop in house right to disconnect standards. This move would make Ontario the first and only province in Canada with such regulations. Unfortunately, it will not address smaller employers, but it should give rise to an important discussion about our commitment to work and working hours.

We Deserve to Re-Charge

The discussions are timely, as noted. When we work from home, often the lines between home and work are blurred. When is the right time to sign on or sign off? If you are managing children at home and working, is a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. workday really possible? Should I set aside breaks for lunch or a short walk – things we may have not thought twice about in our office or workplace settings away from home. Although issues arising from lack of clear divisions between work and home, has increased mental health concerns, burn out and well, possibly even the increase in family breakdown (just ask any family law lawyer).

Technology has also increased the ability to work – e-communication has taken requests and responses to the next level. In the legal field, facsimile is no longer an acceptable means of communication – I’m yelling this to the lawyers in the back! (Please email me only). As a working parent, I too have had to think about the time I spend communicating with clients and counsel, and still meeting my family commitments. And I do think twice about sending an email or answering an email on a Saturday morning; people do feel obligated to respond regardless of time of day or the day of the week.

The World Health Organization reports that the long working hours – and the long months of working from home have led to an increase in deaths from heart disease and stroke. Burnout, results from work that causes long term physical, cognitive or emotional effort.

Balancing It All

The pandemic has highlighted the need to balance work and life. And certainly, it seems that even once we return to more in-person work, many workplaces will remain in a hybrid or completely virtual environment. This is good – shouldn’t we think about work in a way that it fits into our lives, and that of our family, whether that means you are managing children, aging parents or an illness. Flexibility is the truly the key to success.

We recognize employees are cognizant of issues that may arise, and they may not want to create conflict with their employer. If and when workplace matters raise a concern for you, please speak with a specialized employment lawyer. Call us today to discuss your workplace issue.

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