The right to digital disconnection: what is it and why is it so important?
Disconnecting from work responsibilities is essential for good mental health.
Imagine, or relive, the scene: it’s the weekend, or you’re on holiday or it’s 8.30pm on any given weekday. You’re at home reading a book, watching TV, preparing dinner, playing with your children or about to go out for a drink with friends. In short, you’re enjoying your free time. Suddenly, your mobile vibrates because you just received an email from your company.
Receiving work communications outside working hours makes it difficult to balance your personal and professional life and can lengthen the work day, according to the latest studies, by up to 13 hours a day. And this has a very negative impact on both well-being and mental health.
When new technologies began to be introduced into the world of work, many people saw them as the perfect tool that would allow them, at last, to balance their personal and professional lives and spread their workloads more evenly throughout the day. And, to some extent, this has been the case. The problem arises when technology is misused or abused. Because having the means to connect at any time and place should not be synonymous with being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As Cinthya Molina, psychologist at SHA Wellness Clinic, tells us, “working from home has positive aspects, such as autonomy and work-life balance, but it also has many negative factors, such as social isolation, unspecified working hours and being constantly connected”.
The Spanish regulation gives workers the right not to answer emails or messages outside working hours, thus guaranteeing the right to digital disconnection during their rest periods, including summer holidays. It also establishes that at least 12 hours must elapse between the end of one working day and the start of the next.
In addition to being a right for all workers, digital disconnection is a vital necessity. Because, as Cinthya explains, “not disconnecting from work responsibilities increases mental workload, stress and anxiety. In addition, it can lead to burnout syndrome, which is a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by chronic work-related stress and manifested in lack of concentration, scattered thinking, apathy, lack of motivation and memory problems, among many other symptoms. Therefore, disconnecting from work to connect with oneself in a more personal sphere is necessary for good emotional balance and good mental health”.