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Disconnect, if you please | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, July 15, 2022 @ 9:05 AM | By Marcel Strigberger


Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
My ringer is off. Don’t bug me!

Is the work ethic in Ontario now history? I am speaking about recent “right to disconnect” legislation preventing employers from making their employees accessible after work hours. As of this month, employers with 25 or more staff must prepare and distribute a policy statement saying after signing off from work these drones need not check their job-related e-mails or answer their boss’s frantic e-mails or otherwise show a sign of gratitude for having a job to start with. What is the world coming to?

No doubt the COVID pandemic has had something to do with this free-for-all in that many employees got spoiled working from home. Or at least they were supposed to be working. Sometimes they Zoomed in, and they were caught gorging themselves with chicken drumsticks like Henry VIII. Or they were impersonating animals such as cats. Or at times they even neglected to wear pants.

With this labour law change the authorities really pushed the envelope across the spectrum to idle. The government claims this disconnect provision is necessary to help establish a decent work-life balance. Bah humbug!

What happened to the good old days of diligence, perseverance and dedication? This right to disconnect law can only lead to massive slothfulness.

I think of those sailors on the Bounty. Their caring captain William Bligh in 1789 took them with him on a luxury cruise to Tahiti where the Bounty was going to pick up some breadfruit. He allowed them a few months in the Polynesian paradise to enjoy a period of pleasure, hedonism, and debauchery. And how did these ingrates thank him? They sprung a mutiny, casting Bligh and a few loyal men into a longboat and letting them drift off in the deep South Pacific Sea.

I say if we allow employees the luxury to insulate themselves from well-intentioned attempts from their superiors to reach them, it will not be long before their disloyalty will snowball, and we shall see repeats of those events on the Bounty.

I can readily visualize a similar situation right on our own Toronto doorsteps happening with the ferry crossing over to Toronto Island. The captain of the good ship Sam McBride sends a couple of e-mails after work hours to the ship hands. This does not sit well with them, and they hit the roof. Or rather the crow’s nest. The next day they take over the ferry and toss the good captain into a lifeboat and set him adrift in the Toronto harbour, where his launch floats and meanders along Lake Ontario for about 15 minutes till it reaches Centre Island. I’ll bet the legislators of this right to disconnect travesty never thought about this scenario. Hello? Ahoy?

What happened to the respect employees traditionally accorded their bosses? For example, I just cannot envisage a situation of disconnect from duty with the Sopranos, whereby Tony Soprano e-mails after hours his henchman Peter Paul Gualtieri (“Paulie Walnuts”). Tony asks Paulie to carry out a hit that evening on Giacomo Luciano “The Weasel.” I just can’t see Paulie Walnuts showing up for work the next day and telling Tony, “What e-mail? I don’t check e-mails in the evening after a good day’s work. Work-life balance, you know. I was out watching a Yankees game.”

Badda boom badda bing!

And this unsustainable law may be just the beginning of that slippery slope. We are talking organizations with only 25 employees … so far. If allowed to go unchallenged the threshold will slowly but surely shrink. It will not be too long before this rule applies to even a company of one, inclusive of the boss. I have been retired from practice for over five years now. I would squirm to imagine me sending myself an e-mail in the evening without me having the obligation to open it. Unacceptable!

I believe there should be fairness overall. If an employer must reach out to an employee after hours, he or she should be free to call, say, at 3:15 a.m., as long as they show concern and appreciation. The boss might say something like, “I didn’t wake you up, did I?” This to me would demonstrate a respect for work-life balance. There would still be enough hours left in the night for those lazy bones to snooze.

I trust the powers that be will take a fresh look at this inequitable and unsustainable legislation. And if they wish, they can contact me for my further wise thoughts on the matter. I do ask, however, that they do so between the hours of 11:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available in paper and e-book versions where books are sold. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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