What impact will the recently introduced French law on employees ‘right to disconnect’ from the digital workplace during out of work hours really have on the lives of everyday workers?
In a previous blog I considered that maybe the answer to disconnecting, lies within ourselves rather than within the Law. It is our own emotional response to out of hours digital contact which causes the habits and actions we then choose to take.
Consider this though, perhaps the choice to disconnect is a luxury for well -protected regular jobs only and is not a choice at all for those in the ever-expanding gig economy. On the surface, the gig worker requires no right to disconnect as no one forces them to work. They are self-employed and flexible workers so it is entirely up to them as to when they switch off or not.
Or is it? This article argues that to succeed, refusing to accept a gig at any time negatively affects the individual workers ratings upon the platform from which gigs are distributed and may even lead to suspension, meaning it is absolutely necessary for the gig worker to remain connected at all times.
And before those in well protected jobs congratulate themselves for having the freedom to choose to disconnect, consider another scenario. If we win the right to disconnect outside of working hours then how do we choose to spend those free hours? If we choose social media sites we fail to disconnect from the digital world at all. It beggars the question, have the likes of Facebook and Twitter become our informal employers as many of us choose to stay connected even during our free non-working time?
First of all, to call the privilege of not responding to after-hours work-related emails “the right to disconnect” is misleading at best. As it stands, such a narrow definition excludes many other types of social relations where permanent or temporary disconnection by the weaker party might be desirable and where the urge to be connected means a profit opportunity for some and a blunt abuse of power for others. After all, connectivity is not just a means of exploitation – it’s also a means of domination; addressing it in the workplace alone cannot be enough.