Forum: 'Right to Disconnect' law needed as working from home picks up

A woman works on her laptop at home. PHOTO: ST FILE

I applaud labour MP Melvin Yong for proposing that Singapore implement a "Right to Disconnect" law (MP calls for law to guarantee workers the rest they need, Oct 15).

It has been reported that more workers are stressed from working longer hours when working from home (More working from home feel stressed than those on Covid-19 front line, Aug 20).

While there may be a lot of short-term advantages and opportunities in working remotely to develop employment-friendly job skills (like flexibility, adaptability, time management and multi-tasking), I believe that in the long term, we have far more to lose.

People simply don't multi-task well so our attention is constantly divided. That results in gaps, mistakes and potentially life-and-death accidents.

It is unsustainable to compartmentalise work from family and personal commitments, especially with the new work norms now.

The work-from-home model has completely blurred the lines between work and personal life, and created significant downsides. Employers now call, text and e-mail their staff far more than ever before.

Many, for fear that their staff are skiving at home, over-compensate and inundate their employees with messages 24/7.

Others are riding on the trend as an excuse to pour more work on their exhausted staff, knowing well that they have an upper hand, thanks to the flood of job seekers in the market.

This pandemic is a wake-up call to re-examine what values our society holds as we move into uncharted waters.

At the very least, even if the still politically-correct notions of productivity and efficiency are touted as reasons to blur the lines between work and play while working from home, the right of employees to disconnect should be upheld without threatening their livelihoods.

The challenge is to convince employers that it's in their best interests to have happy, well-adjusted staff; and for employees, that it's okay to not feel guilty when official work hours are over and we've shut down our communication devices.

The problem is, are we prepared to take what seems to be a step backwards in terms of productivity in order to regain our right to disconnect?

Kelvin Seah Lee Nguon

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2020, with the headline Forum: 'Right to Disconnect' law needed as working from home picks up. Subscribe