You Have the Right to Digital Disconnection

26 de January de 2022
4 min

You Have the Right to Digital Disconnection

Are you one of those people who reply to emails or messages outside your working hours?

Do you turn off notifications when you leave the office?

Or do you always keep your email open “just in case”?

The Right to Disconnect

The right to disconnect is defined as: “the right not to connect to any digital device of a professional nature, company software, corporate mobile phones, emails, or other work-related platforms”.

In Spain, there are two legislations that defend this right. One is Article 88 of the Organic Law 3/2018, which regulates the right to digital disconnection. The other, more recent, is Article 18 of the Law 10/2021, which regulates this right for teleworkers. This law was born as a result of the presence of remote work during the pandemic.

But Spain is not the only country that has legislated something similar. In fact, in France, the right to disconnect is so present that there is a law that prohibits responding to or sending emails outside working hours.

But, why is a legal framework necessary to defend the right to disconnect?

The Other Side of the Coin

Technology should not be demonized. It is a tool, like many others, and we must know how to use it. There are already several studies that talk about how we have created tools to help us, that are causing us many problems.

Paradoxical, isn’t it?

But undoubtedly, a world as vast as the internet and new technologies requires responsibility. Individual responsibility, group responsibility, company responsibility, social responsibility… And not only that, but also legislation, programs, initiatives… things that protect us and help us manage the negative consequences.

But, what are the negative consequences of not disconnecting?

Here are some of the direct effects of not disconnecting:

  • Risk of addiction: like to coffee, alcohol, gambling… the internet as a whole is a very large world and technological devices undoubtedly generate an effect of “attachment”. That is, it’s hard to leave the house without a mobile phone (what is known as FOMO). We believe that if we do, we are missing out on something. On the other hand, there’s an “omnipresence” that causes carrying a mobile phone in the pocket makes us feel that we have many people “close” or “at hand”. That we are connected to them. All this combined with the characteristics of the Internet generates an effect: it’s hard to stop. It’s difficult to control its use and also… it causes dependency. If I don’t use it, I feel strange, bad.
  • The constant connection to work-related devices blurs a boundary: that of the workday. Wouldn’t you work 12 hours a day if it wasn’t compensated or there wasn’t a significant reason? Then, why do you open your email? Or why do you leave notifications on “just in case something happens”? This creates an effect on the worker not only of dependency on that device but of “being burnt out”. In other words, it relates to burnout. Because it generates what is called anticipatory anxiety, doing something just in case anticipating negative consequences.
  • Directly affects our cognitive abilities: it’s proven that a high level of dependency on ICTs causes alterations in our capacity for sustained attention, inhibition, and even in our memory. This means that the worker’s non-disconnection impairs their cognitive abilities and therefore, directly and negatively impacts their productivity and job satisfaction.
  • Creates unspoken rules of behavior: that is, it’s not written anywhere that it’s an obligation but “it’s taken for granted” that you’re going to do it. As if suddenly you arrive at a job where many unpaid extra hours are worked. You realize that although it’s not in your contract, everyone does it and therefore it’s assumed that it’s normal.
  • Negatively affects the ability to reconcile work life with family, social, or partner life. This means that it disrupts your leisure hours and also alters your routines not only for you but for the people you usually spend time with.

Disconnect, to Connect

In conclusion, the right to disconnect is necessary for several reasons. The first of them, directly related to the worker, their rights at work, and their own performance. It’s a reality that the “addiction” to the digital world in general has consequences such as lack of concentration, anxiety, sleep problems, stress, and other problems like obesity or alterations in our relationships.

The second, to connect with the real world, we have to disconnect from the virtual one. And the third, it is a matter of public health to legislate and act in favor of the right to disconnect. This is because it affects not only on an individual level but also on a group, organizational, and social level.