In case you missed it, last week the Portuguese parliament passed new labor laws making it illegal for bosses to text employees after work. Yes, you read that right. According to Vice World News, the legislation is designed to give workers a healthier work-life balance and to attract “digital nomads” to the country:
Under new rules, employers could be penalized for contacting employees after work and will be forced to pay for increased expenses as a result of working from home – such as gas and electricity bills.
Further rules will be implemented to aid employees at home, such as banning employers from monitoring their workers at home and ensuring workers must meet with their boss every two months to stop isolation.
I found this news quite remarkable, because as a society, Portuguese lawmakers are choosing to intervene and advocate for employees. In contrast, workers in the U.S. are frequently seen as lazy, or “not a team player” if they advocate for themselves. In fact, employees often feel like the only way they’ll move up in an organization is to work longer hours during the week and over weekends.
This ties into what I’ve discussed many times here, which is that Americans are stressed out – only 55% of us actually take vacation! We are working endless hours, experiencing burnout in record numbers, and our health and productivity are suffering.
While I don’t imagine American lawmakers will be passing such laws any time soon, organizational leaders are in the position to examine their own culture, and realize the power of having happier, well-balanced employees.
Tips for Leaders
If you are an executive, manager or team leader, are you encouraging your employees to have a healthy work-life harmony? Do you respect their time outside of work hours?
I recently received a client email on a Sunday afternoon addressing a business matter. Seconds later, I received an apology from that same client, noting that she meant to time activate the message to send on Monday. I appreciated her awareness, and I didn’t respond to her emails until the following day.
I mention this because first of all, I appreciated her immediate correction acknowledging that it was Sunday and showing respect for my time off. Secondly, I was reminded how important it is for me to model this same behavior and refrain from texting my own employees or clients over the weekends, even though I often find myself working on Sundays in preparation for the work weeks ahead (I’m trying to get better at that too).
So what are some ways we can get better? I’ve noticed a couple of trends in the companies I work with that have healthy cultures:
1. They have specific agreements or policies acknowledging that no emails or texts will be sent after hours or on weekends.
2. One day a week is designated as a non-meeting day (like No Meeting Wednesdays), which serves to free employees from video calls or face-to-face sit-downs, and give them an uninterrupted day to complete tasks and be more productive.
Tips for Employees
If you are on the receiving end of weekend emails or after-hours texts, here are a few tips I often share with clients:
1. Set healthy boundaries. Whether you’re working remotely or are back in an office, define your work structure and refrain from sending or responding to messages when they are not within that time frame.
2. Have a conversation. If you are continuously receiving emails or texts from your boss (or colleagues) after hours, it’s time to talk about it. For starters, you can say something like, “Hey, I’ve noticed that many of your emails/texts are sent after hours/on weekends, and I would like to understand – is it your expectation that I respond to them outside of work hours? Or is it fine to respond during the work day?”
3. If you find the expectation is to be responsive at all times, then you’ll need to have an additional conversation about those personal work day boundaries you have established for yourself. For example, say something like, “If you need to text or email me over the weekend/in the evenings, I will respond promptly on Monday/during business hours the following day. My family and downtime is a priority for me, and helps me bring my best self to work.”
Need Help With That?
Companies that encourage employees to have a healthy work-life balance know that when workers are happy, everyone benefits. If you are struggling to create a healthy corporate culture, or want to learn how to be a people-first organization, give us a call. We can help you make that happen.