Disconnecting from Work
TMU’s Disconnecting from Work policy was created in response to the provincial government December 2021 amendments to the Employment Standards Act (external link) (ESA). This policy reinforces the university’s existing norms and policies, as well as our commitment to support all employees in balancing their working and personal lives and encourage employees to disconnect from work outside of their working hours.
Disconnecting from work and setting appropriate work hours is consistent with the norms outlined in the university’s Recharge and Future of Work initiatives. Leaders play an important role in creating environments where employees can disconnect from work and are encouraged to work proactively with their employees to set clear expectations, norms and provide support when needed.
Workshops for leaders to learn more about the policy
Workplace Wellbeing Sessions is hosting two drop in sessions for leaders to seek guidance for how to implement the policy. Join Jen Alefounder, director, Workplace Wellbeing Services and Heather Wood London, senior legal counsel and executive director, Strategic HR Partnerships & Labour Relations for a drop in session to discuss questions that you may have.
This policy is being implemented in response to the provincial government December 2021 amendments to the Employment Standards Act (external link) (ESA). While the additions to the ESA do not provide new or additional rights above and beyond the existing protections provided in the ESA and collective agreements, it does require that employers create a Disconnecting from Work policy and circulate it to employees.
This is an important opportunity to reinforce Toronto Metropolitan University’s commitment to employee wellbeing and to highlight existing employee rights and the importance of workplace wellbeing. It’s also an opportunity for leaders to be reminded of the importance of proactive communication with employees about expectations, clear work boundaries and to implement strategies to ensure that the blurring of lines between work and personal life that can sometimes occur in flexible work arrangements do not occur.
It is important for all employees to disconnect from work as work-life balance plays a significant role in productivity and wellbeing. The Disconnecting from Work policy does not prevent employees from working outside of their work hours if they choose to or as part of a flexible work arrangement; however, it is important to be respectful of your colleagues who are disconnecting from work and set expectations accordingly, especially as employees’ regular work hours may differ in the context of hybrid work.
Employees can be asked to work outside of your established hours, should a situation arise that requires flexibility and responsiveness. Any applicable rights outlined in your contract, applicable collective agreement and/or minimum statutory entitlements under the ESA will apply.
As we work together to support a culture of wellbeing, these occurrences will vary depending on the role, but generally speaking should be rare and well-communicated.
The new policy aligns with best practices for hybrid work by supporting employee wellbeing. Employers and leaders should engage in regular conversations to make sure employees’ hours are clearly defined and expectations are communicated.
- We are a busy workplace! If you are being asked to reply to emails or work outside of your regular work hours, as a first step, check in with your leader on how best to set boundaries or establish expectations.
- Meet with your leader to ensure you are understanding what the expectations are and to clarify response times. For example, you may want to ask for clarification on what is considered urgent and what can wait until the following day.
- Work with your leader to develop a shared understanding of work hours and response times and what your steps should be if you feel this is not being respected.
- If you have talked to your leader and you have sent the concern in writing and it is still happening, connect with your HR partner or union representative for direction.
Frequently asked questions for leaders
Employees can be asked to work outside of established hours, should a situation arise that requires flexibility and responsiveness. Any applicable rights outlined in their contract, applicable collective agreement and/or their minimum statutory entitlements under the ESA will apply.
As we work together to support a culture of wellbeing, these occurrences will vary depending on the role, but in most circumstances should be rare and should be well-communicated.
- Set team norms around expectations for core work hours, not checking or responding to emails/work outside of your own work hours, etc. so that everyone is on the same page.
- Encourage employees to update their Google Calendar to reflect their work hours (external link) to avoid being booked in meetings outside of that time.
- Make conversations about work hours and priorities an ongoing topic with your team and at one to one updates. Remember that as we adjust to hybrid work, operational needs or situations may change.
- As a leader, employees may feel the need to respond to your emails despite letting them know they do not need to do so. Make use of “schedule send” in the google mail to support and respect your employees hours. If you anticipate needing to work in a Google Doc outside of core hours (or another situation where “schedule send” is not possible), let your team know why, and that you don’t expect them to respond until they return to work unless specifically asked.
- Define what “urgent” means and have a common understanding for what qualifies as urgent. Remind them that you are available to help assess and prioritize as needed.
- If appropriate and applicable, share details about your team’s expected response time/availability to regular or frequent campus partners.