Work-life balance and the right to disconnect while working from home

Last updated: 03 Dec 2020

Home working raises new issues around the increasing use by employers of new technology and software to communicate with and manage their workforce, and the implications of this for work-life balance, privacy, accountability, and fairness.

There is increasing evidence that some workers struggle to maintain a fair and healthy work-life balance in the face of new communications technologies.

Always on working cultures of checking emails and taking calls away from work have become widespread in many companies and industries. Some people may be happy to work like this, but if expectations are not managed fairly it can pose serious issues for equalities and diversity, work-related stress, morale and productivity.

These issues can be made more acute by a shift towards increased home working. There can be important benefits for many workers from increased flexibility about where they work; but for some it can make it even harder for workers to maintain boundaries between work and the rest of their lives

Prospect is encouraging employers to learn from best practice in the UK and overseas, which can mean agreeing fair ground rules with their employees about when they can be expected to take calls, read emails, join online meetings or engage with work in other ways outside their normal contracted hours.

Employers are increasingly turning to new technologies and data analysis techniques in how they manage and reward their employees. This can include:

  • surveillance technologies from keystroke monitoring to CCTV, sensors, and voice recorders
  • using data obtained through such technologies along with other personal data and performance metrics to inform decisions around pay, promotion, work allocation etc
  • relying on algorithms or AI programmes to analyse this and other data to profile employees and shape decisions around their work, management, pay or promotion.

The issues these technologies and practices raise around privacy, accountability and fairness can be even starker for home workers.

Remember, employees have rights under the GDPR to know what data employers are gathering or storing on them and how it is being used.

For more information on this, members can download our full guide to homeworking.

Get help

If you have concerns about how your employer might be using technology to monitor you while working from home, or if you have further questions about this issue, contact us for more help.