Get Offline & Reboot!

27 November 2018

The right to disconnect

Do you know what’s currently trending with employers? Encouraging their teams to get offline! France and Belgium are leading the way as the first countries to legislate the right to disconnect. In other countries in Europe the concept of disconnecting is rising in popularity, for example the German-based company Volkswagen, shuts down its email servers during evenings and weekends. But should we have the right to regulate our employees work lives and personal lives?

Catherine Privé, Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) and president and chief executive officer at Alia Conseil, asks herself that very question. “I agree with the principle behind it, but I’m against the right to disconnect as a law”, she says. “I don’t like the idea that the government is getting involved in our businesses. If we have to implement a law it’s simply because we have failed on the collective and organizational fronts.”

Shared responsibility

In the absence of such a law in Canada, certain employers have instilled measures to favour digital disconnecting. It’s the case with Société du parc industriel et portuaire de Bécancour, a Quebec-based company, that has introduced a policy on the right to disconnect for their employees and executives. “A policy is restrictive, severe, and firm, says Mrs. Privé. I would prefer that our managers take on the responsibility to meet their teams to review efficient workflow tactics and define clear and conscience guidelines and best practices. Leaders should be accountable for developing individual and organizational methods to stay well-balanced.” According to the expert, leaders should be evaluated not only on their team’s performance but also on the health and quality of life of their team members. “Instead of talking about policies and rules, why not be more sensible, and promote a healthy work-life balance?”, she asks.

This day and age we carry our office with us in our pocket. FOMO – fear of missing out – is a real phenomenon, a sense of urgency to respond to messages and calls at all times. Certain companies thrive a culture of urgency, and it eventually affects their organizational effectiveness in a negative way.” – Catherine Privé, CPHR

Act out of kindness

Be ready to have open and honest conversations with employees about disconnecting, that’s the approach this chief executive officer takes with her teams. “You need to be kind with your employees, educate them on the impact of hyperconnectivity, this unlimited availability. And most of all lead by example!”, she adds. In her personal life, Catherine Privé, who is a psychosociologist, often takes a break from technology by completely weaning herself off of all devices at her cabin. “After three days without internet and television, I am able to read a science article from start to finish, something I fail to do in the usual whirlwind of emails and alerts. We collectively suffer from a constant cognitive fatigue,” she observes. “We are mentally tired. For me, disconnecting goes beyond work-life balance and becomes a collective and individual responsibility.”

“As parents, employers, citizens, are we really aware of the importance of having a healthy lifestyle (exercise, friendships, family time, support, human interaction, rest etc.) in order to evolve in a healthy way in this world of hyperconnectivity?” she asks in conclusion.

*In March 2018, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois from Québec solidaire presented a right to disconnect law project that died on paper by the terms of the legislative exercise of June 2018. The federal government also showed some interest in the matter in August 2018 after studying the results of a survey with respect to the review of Canada’s Labour Code and Employment and Social Development Canada.

You may also like: Hyperconnectivity in business


President and chief executive officer, Alia Conseil, psychosociologist specializing in the analysis and development of organizations

Her inspiration: Simone de Beauvoir

Her leadership style: Shared (everyone contributes to the leadership and resources for the team in order to achieve a common goal)

Her philosophy: Place people in their talents

Her go-to tool: Breathing

Alia Conseil, firm specializing in organizational analysis and development
Head office: Montréal
Number of employees: 60
Annual revenue: N/A
Services: leadership development, skills & development training, organizational health


About the author

Mélissa Proulx

About Mélissa Proulx


Mélissa Proulx is a journalist, news contributor, and copywriter. Passion and creativity have been driving her to create rich and diverse journalistic content since 2002.