Jenny was recently interviewed on Sky News on the topic, here’s a video transcription of the interview or you can watch the clip here
And now here is a question. Have you ever been relaxing with friends and family over the weekend for instance and then suddenly receive an urgent email from work? What then you’re reaction? Do you feel phlegmatic and understanding that work sometimes means all hands on deck or do you feel sick to the stomach that work can’t be left in the door? In France, the right to disconnect is about to become a legal right. Companies with more than fifty staff who flought it or be prosecuted. Should it be illegal to contact employees when they are out of the office? The Managing Director of Personal Career and Management, Corrine Mills. Corrine, welcome to you. Jenny Garrett is an Executive Career Coach and a Working Mom.
JOURNALIST: Jenny, good morning to you.
JENNY: Good morning!
JOURNALIST: Well, where do we go with this? Kick this off if you would. Prosecution for contacting staff at the weekends and in the evenings? How is that going to work?
CORRINE: Is it really going to happen? I don’t think it’s enforceable. I do think though there is something to this, the right to kind of disconnect. I do think that that that’s a valuable thing that you, everybody needs time to turn off. But actually making legislation and I’m not quite sure that there are going to be prosecutions. You know, perhaps having a charter of Best Practice for organisations. Look, people can always ignore emails even if they are coming in.
JOURNALIST: Can they? Can they? Jenny can they ignore emails? Do bosses to how do bosses take to staff ignoring emails when there really urgent?
JENNY: I think it’s very, very difficult to ignore emails, I think you have to seen to be responsive. If you’re working for global organizations all of the time.
JOURNALIST: All the time?
JENNY: All of the times, yes I think it’s very, very hard not to I think you know what previous it was like 9 to 5 and if you left at 5 you’re a clock watcher. I think if you don’t respond to emails you’re a bit of that same sort of person, so you’re not willing to go out of you way. What is it to just to respond to an email? I think if you’re not in control of your life it is very, very difficult. I welcome the legislation actually I think it can make a big difference to people’s lives and you know in the very same way we have to the about targets for quotas for women, on boards etcetera. If we don’t measure it, it doesn’t get done and I think we need to actually put some things in place, to really make sure that we all don’t get burnt out and extremely stressed.
JOURNALIST: Corrine, I was rocking my brain this morning, I was talking about which top executive it was I think it was Jerry Robinson who was swash buckling buccaneering businessman in the 80’s and 90’s, but he’s still around, who used to say, “you can’t do your job between 9 to 5 then you’re not doing it properly, your time management is askew.”
CORRINE: Well, (sigh) I think you know, we live in a, as kind of, Jenny said, we live in a global kind of world now.
JOURNALIST: Different time zones. Emails can pinging
CORRINE: Different times zones what you’re going to do? You know, people that you might be working with in China or the States or whatever you know, their working days is a different time period than your working day. What? They’re going to stop sending you emails just because you’re off? It’s, it’s not going to work. I do think there is something about good practice with organisations. And I do think in that kind of functional legislation they were talking about getting a code of good practice about email etiquette and I think as a general principle most things will wait till the morning you know, so I think, so I think there’s that. But I also think there’s a self-management piece here as well, which is you don’t have to open your email…
JOURNALIST: Well, let’s talk about this a second, I mean just you, you draw an important distinction Jenny, that point between you know, somebody looking at the email that’s there as sort of information purposes and the one that requires an instant reaction and a decision and you got to rack your brains, think it through, and it could be something on which, you know, your fortunes hinge. That’s, there’s a big difference there.
JENNY: Yes, but I’d say if it’s that urgent call me! (Laughter). You don’t have to send me an email because the chance is I could miss an email, couldn’t I? And so, I, you know I think if we’re, you know, email is a tool we’re supposed to use it to help us we’re not supposed to be a slave to email and if we’re looking at every email just in case it’s going to be that crucial email then that means, that means it’s taking up all of our time, our energy and causing us a great deal of stress.
JOURNALIST: Corrine, the technology is working against people in a sense, isn’t it? Because it’s all-pervasive now, I mean, the time was not that long ago when you could say to the boss on Monday morning, “I didn’t get the email on Sunday afternoon, because I was in the late district or whatever. I was on a plane! It doesn’t wash anymore, they can get to you wherever you are!
CORRINE: It doesn’t but it also there are advantages aren’t there? I mean I know in business if we’re talking about women. There are lots of women who do the school pick up and then will go home and then they will work in the evenings and they might well be sending, so it kind of works both ways, but again I do think it comes back to a little bit of the self-management piece, as well. It’s not you know, sometimes you will get a boss who will oversteps the mark. They might be sending you emails all the time and there’s probably a lot of other things their doing that are boundary crossing as well. So I think sometimes you have to kind of, not respond to it. You know if somebody keeps sending you things that don’t matter or you’re cc’d in when it’s not really important to you, then don’t respond or have a conversation outside and say “look do I really need to cc’d in this?” I actually am going away for the weekend I am not going to be able to respond to anything.
JENNY: I think culturally in the UK it’s much more difficult to do. I think in France there’s a real family culture there’s a, there’s a sense of you know, the evenings are for us, the weekends are for us let’s have these long lunches.
JOURNALIST:Is that why their economy has gone down the toilet?
JENNY: Well, I’m not going to comment on their economy but I think…
JOURNALIST: It’s not comment, it’s a fact isn’t it? I mean the French economy is in a pretty powerless state!
JENNY: Yeah, but its different culture and I, and I think it’s, it’s harder for us to do in the UK. I think it’s harder for us to do than it is for those, those…
JOURNALIST: Jenny, what at this point does it actually, some personal responsibilities applies here? If we examine our consciences and I’m even, you know, there are certain things in my own behaviour here that we have the phone, we sometimes find the fingers creeping towards it to tap it, we don’t need to. What on earth are we be doing?
JENNY: Yeah, I think it’s really hard because phones are a part of our lives. My phone is my alarm clock it sleeps beside my bed and therefore if I wake up three o clock in the morning to check the time and somethings pings up, I might actually look at that email. So I agree there is some self-management involved but I’m, you know, I run my own business and I have more control yet if I’m at the whim of my boss, who says don’t look at your email after six, but you’re sending them all. I might feel an obligation to check and I think it’s a different thing when you’re employed.
CORRINE: Yeah, I was going to say I, I think you know managers do need to have a model of best practice cause it’s all very well as you said, saying “all right, don’t, you know, nobody email after six, but actually if your manager is still sending things over, then there is you kind of feel that pressure! So I do think there needs to be a model of good practice in that, yes.
JOURNALIST: Oh there’s a key point in here which we haven’t talk about, which is it depends on the type of entity we’re talking about, doesn’t it? If you’re the company that the French talking about in excess of employees that suggests some sort of management critical mess. If you’re working for yourself then it’s, a different game altogether isn’t it? You might not, if you don’t answer that email that might be a vital bit of business that goes somewhere else.
CORRINE: Yeah, and there are always emails, my gosh, we are so glad we got the night before, you know, something about you need information because the meeting that you thought you were going to have in the morning, suddenly there’s a piece of information you need to know in advance. So actually, you know, sometimes there are necessity for all those things as well.
JENNY: I agree, but I think we’ve been sold a dream that doesn’t exist. The blended life of work is life and life is work and it all combines. It doesn’t, I don’t think it really works, I mean I’ve sometimes sold it to myself and then had three weeks holiday where I have not responded to emails and realize what I was missing.
JOURNALIST: And you’ve felt better from this?
JENNY: Yeah, I’ve felt so much better! You know, so re-energized, so much more creative, my performance increases, so you know until we do it, maybe we don’t know, until we do switch off.
JOURNALIST: There are, I mean you introduce a bigger topic there example but you know, creates this idea that work is fun and works going to be fun, let’s have some table tennis tables outside for the kids to play you know. It’s that google mentality that work isn’t the place you come to work, it’s the place where you come to make friends and have fun. (Laughter)
CORRINE: And hopefully do something productive as well. Well, look it is much more seamless we are very connected and I think, I think the kind of boundary is actually is when it does feel exploitative because I think there are lots of things that do work. We do like…
JOURNALIST: Who decides when it’s exploitative HR?
CORRINE: Well I think as an individual you have a pretty much a good sense, if you’re feeling resentful that you’re getting those emails or those calls then that resentment is telling you something that the boundary is skewed. I don’t think it’s necessary and that can be regardless of whatever code of best practice. So I think again for me again it does come down to a little bit about the individual having a good sensor on this, being assertive on this as well. And actually…
JOURNALIST: But not everybody, not everybody is assertive…
CORRINE: No, no…
JOURNALIST: … they’ll be living in fear of losing their job.
CORRINE: Well that’s true but you know what, I know things are difficult but there are always choices and if you are in an organisation that is exploitative, and you know or in on a profession; and let’s face it they are some professions if you work in, management consultancy, you work in law, you’re doing business deals.
JOURNALIST: You know work comes pulses, doesn’t it? There are busy periods, there are slack periods
CORRINE: It did! That’s what’s expected and if that’s no longer right for you and you don’t want to do that anymore then think about your options.
JOURNALIST: Jenny, I’ll just give you the last word I mean, is there something that the broad trend feels like with the expectation is that staff will be on call a little bit more than once they were. Does that trend carry on or does it stop?
JENNY: I think we’re going to have to review things. Corrine is a coach and so am I and I think one of the things we know is that people come to us when it’s too late. They don’t, they’re not self-aware during it. It’s when they burn out and when they’re stressed out that they come to us. There’s going to be more and more of that and ultimately that’s going to have a real a terrible impact on the UK economy. So I think we need to look to France, see what they’re doing and think what we can do for ourselves.
JOURNALIST: Jenny Garrett, Corrine Mills you should be a regular slot, this. Really enjoyed that! Thanks very much indeed!
JENNY: Thank you.