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Queen’s University expert says pandemic blurred line between work and rest

Click to play video: 'Kingston expert approves right to work legislation' Kingston expert approves right to work legislation
WATCH: A Queen's University business professor says taking time away from work is necessary for mental health – Oct 27, 2021

For many workers and businesses across Ontario, working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has become the new norm.

Kitchens and dens have been transformed into remote offices, which is said to have made “unplugging” difficult.

According to Matthias Spitzmuller, an associate professor at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, the line between work and time off has been blurred.

“We’ve seen an increasing trend in organizations to expect employees to be reached after hours, and that emails that are sent in late afternoon hours/evening hours will indeed be replied to same day,” Spitzmuller explained.

Read more: Ontario government introduces omnibus labour legislation, including right to disconnect

According to an online poll conducted in April by accounting firm KPMG, nearly half of the 1,000 Canadian employees surveyed said their workload is heavier than it was pre-pandemic.

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More than 30 per cent said they’re so overworked they are or close to burning out.

To help workers achieve a better work-life balance, Ontario’s labour minister introduced new “right to disconnect” legislation on Monday.

Read more: Most Canadian workers want mix of remote, office options post-pandemic, survey says

The legislation would require businesses with 25 or more employees to develop disconnecting-from-work policies, which could include workers no longer replying to emails after hours, and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they are not working.

“What the initative is trying to address is precisely this expecation that employees have to be online, have to respond in a very timely manner, and protect some family time,” Spitzmuller said.

Spitzmuller also adds that sleeping patterns have been greatly affected, as more and more people spend the time they should be in bed recharging, on their phones.

In 2016, France adopted right to disconnect legislation — and if Ontario does the same it will be a first of its kind in Canada.

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