back to article This always-on culture we're in is awful. How do we stop it? Oh, sorry, hold on – just had another notification

Just because the internet is always on doesn't mean that we should be. People need time away from work to relax and recharge, unencumbered by phone and email when working outside the office. Advocates of work-life balance call this the right to disconnect. Many in the UK had hoped that the government would enshrine it in law. …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Cattle

    How quickly engineers have been reduced to cattle.

    It used to be a noble profession. Now you will be struggling to even buy a shoe box flat.

    Meanwhile big corporations enjoy billions and billions of profits (of course disguised so they don't pay tax)

    But don't worry, as an engineer you have a privilege of paying the higher tax rate, so when government is asked why they allow the likes of Amazon to avoid tax, they can say, but their workers pay taxes!

    1. LybsterRoy Bronze badge

      Re: Cattle

      I'm an old fart. To me engineers are people who build things like bridges and ships not someone who copies code from SO.

    2. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: Cattle

      If there are 10,000,000 qualified engineers in the world and the world economy needs 5,000,000 your pay is going to be shit. Get used to it or do something else.

      1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: Cattle

        Yes, bang on. But be aware, that if you have the particular skills that are in high demand now (you know, Kubernetes is flavour of the month but it will move on) then as a select group of people earning a high-er salary, you'll be pumped hard because the tooling allows them to do it.

        A legal backstop is clearly the correct way to go, to protect the public from the unscrupulous ('it's not ILLEGAL...') actors. But UK governments are not quick to offer their citizens' benefits, when it may disrupt the pursuit of profit, unless the electorate squeezes its balls. So don't hold your breath.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Expect a reply when I am in the pub ?

    Then do not complain if what I write has been filtered through the London Pride that I have drunk.

    1. Dropper

      Re: Expect a reply when I am in the pub ?

      After a series of experiments combing whitley neill rhubarb & ginger gin with various tonic waters, flavoured drinks then eventually carbonated water because we just stopped caring, I found that responding to every work-related notification I received has resulted in new HR policies regarding responding to Teams messages, emails and work-related texts after hours.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "measure what they deliver"

    I will never forget that time I accompanied a friend of mine to a presentation concerning an accounting package. He wanted me to come with him because, in the early 90s, I was an accountant.

    At the presentation, there was the two of us, and two guys from an accounting company. Two young, cocky guys.

    They spent the entire presentation asking about the the functionalities allowing them to trace employees down to the keystroke.

    Remember, this was the early 90s, when the 486DX2 was the pinnacle of technology. And here I was, discovering that an accounting package was spending more CPU resources on spying on its users for the pleasure of management than actually doing its job of managing accounts.

    That was one hell of an eye-opener for me.

    My friend chose to not take that package.

    1. MarkSitkowski

      Re: "measure what they deliver"

      "...486DX2 was the pinnacle of technology..."

      I'd say the Sun Sparc20 might be closer to that pinnacle?

      1. Geoffrey W

        Re: "measure what they deliver"

        RE: "Sun Sparc20 might be closer to that pinnacle?"

        If you're being like that then the C90 Cray was maybe a bit better than a Sparc. But at about $30 million I could only afford one of them in my bedroom, so I had more 486s knocking about than Crays.

        1. Geoffrey W

          Re: "measure what they deliver"

          Also, the 486 was better for playing DooM because the sound and graphics on my Cray were horrible. Don't know if you can play DooM on a Sparc though I've seen it running on a fridge...or a toaster...or something equally awesome.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "measure what they deliver"

            Don't know if you can play DooM on a Sparc

            You could, Sun gave the Doom guys a system (SS5 I think) to port it. It was just a one-off, though, more for fun & marketing than as a supported platform. Worked pretty well on my desktop.

        2. FuzzyTheBear
          Pint

          Re: "measure what they deliver"

          and yet most of us have cray frontier's in our basements .. time for a bit of an upgrade don't you think ?

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: "measure what they deliver"

        "...486DX2 was the pinnacle of technology..."

        I'd say the Sun Sparc20 might be closer to that pinnacle?

        PDP 11/73

      3. ZekeStone

        Re: "measure what they deliver"

        Nah... The Sun Sparc20 got left in the dust by another chip also came out in 1992... The DEC Alpha.

        The DEC Alpha was 64 bit and came out initially at 150mhz... while the Sparc was still 32bit and I think started at 40mhz at the time.

        It was widely regarded as the fastest chip in the industry from that year until around 1996.

    2. ZekeStone

      Re: "measure what they deliver"

      "when the 486DX2 was the pinnacle of technology. "

      The DX2 came out in 1992. Another chip also came out in 1992... The DEC Alpha.

      And I recall that when it came out, it was the fastest chip in the industry. Where the 486 was 32 bit and topped out at 66mhz, the DEC Alpha was 64 bit and came out initially at 150mhz.

  4. Boothy Silver badge

    Not office hours? No contact

    My work life balance is quite simple. If it's not office hours, and not some agreed and planned well in advance exception, then I'm not available.

    The company I work for (US corp, but I'm based in UK), took the decision some years back to no longer provide company mobile/cell phones. I was also hot desking at the time, so no desk number either. So for years now, I've not had a 'work' phone number, and I don't give out my personal number to work only colleagues.

    This means for years now, if you want to talk, you had to Skype me (desktop app only), although we've moved to Teams now, same rule applies.

    Also as no company mobile/cell phone is provided, I also won't install work Office/Teams etc on my personal devices, so access to Teams and email is via company provided laptop only. (We do not have BYOD).

    You can send me emails, or messages on Teams, whenever you want, just don't expect an answer outside of office hours, or when I'm on leave!

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Not office hours? No contact

      It really is that easy for a lot of people — don't add your work accounts to your phone. Don't do it because you feel you have to prove something, don't do it because the person that sits next to you does it, and encourage others not to do so as well. If you have a work mobile then maybe there's an out-of-hours element to your job, but it should be clearly stated in your contract.

      If nothing else, doing free bits of work on a regular basis is dishonest to your employer. How are they ever going to know (or care) that they're under-resourced if people keep picking up the slack, or indeed the Slack?

      1. Boothy Silver badge

        Re: Not office hours? No contact

        Some of my colleagues in the US, seem to be under more pressure to be available at all times, although that culture does seem to be slowly changing.

        Company policy has recently changed, thanks to you know what, with more emphasis on personal time, breaks etc.

        Regarding your last comment, our company policy, and it's very much pushed, is to book all hours worked on a project or piece of work, irrespective of if you get payed for those hours or not, or what your contracted hours are.

        My 'people' manager, also monitors total hours being booked, and will come and have a chat if high hours become a regular thing. We've increased team size a couple of times in the last year, due to regular excessive hours. i.e. proof we had enough work to justify bringing new people in.

        1. logicalextreme Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          Yeah, I've heard many a thing about US work culture — availability, hours, appearance, etc. that's put me off moving there (among other things like the fact I've got a cat and they had a Trump). I generally expect stuff to move towards sanity so glad it's changing.

          We've got a similar thing at my place regarding logging hours (actually via timesheet software, with project codes to allow for billing clients appropriately and even accounting for holidays, bank holidays, mandatory company-wide meetings and so on). Unfortunately I get the sense it's not quite supported by the rest of the culture there as you're not encouraged (I think) to log hours that aren't due pay and I know managers work overtime for the hell of it, which doesn't help too much in the long run. There's also the classic fear of having a large backlog, which I'm attempting to change by raising items for everything as I think of them and explaining why it's better for stuff to be out in the open rather than in people's heads. Overall down to a mix of different people's ideas about what "work" should be, and the small size of the company giving you more exposure to the people who've got their lives invested in it, which is a good thing as long as they don't expect you to commit every waking hour! Your place sounds like they've nailed it.

          1. Geoffrey W

            Re: Not office hours? No contact

            I've found there to be two main issues with moving to the USA, which you really must consider; Health Care, and Tax Man, who is an evil little bastard. No Pay As You Earn* over here so you do your own taxes or pay an equally evil accountant to do them for you. Or you hide your income under the table and hope the evil bastard doesn't come knocking...

            A slightly lesser issue is that unless you are a millionaire or president then you're expected to work stupid hours with few holidays.

            Other issues are of the Hunt'n, Shoot'n, Pray'n, Sport'n variety which are lesser evils and livable with...just about. Mercans are madder than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

            * If there is any PAYE scheme over here then I'm just ignorant, and haven't come across it yet.

            1. Adelio Silver badge

              Re: Not office hours? No contact

              Not so bothered about tax, it is what it is. But healthcare.

              What a barbaric country. Where insuline costs 10 times more than anywhere else in the world. where the country is run by medical insurance companies and the people are a poor third.

              Where people have o decide whether to visit a doctor / hospital because it might bankrupt them.

              1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

                Re: Not office hours? No contact

                Thanks, brexit.

              2. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Not office hours? No contact

                "Not so bothered about tax, it is what it is. But healthcare."

                The US government has never taken up discussions about the cost of healthcare. What they do is talk about health insurance. Related but not equal. Obamacare was and still sort of is a requirement that you have health insurance. What happened is what always happens when the government gets stuck in and that's loads of waste and fraud. Insurance policies that used to be considered "catastrophic" coverage become the norm except the rates are at the level for what would have been average insurance. Lots of money in monthly payments with a very high deductible. You might have to need tens of thousands of medical bills before you pull even with what it costs. This is all ok because the government will pay anybody's insurance premiums if they can't afford them. If your entry into the country was rather informal, no worries, some program will pay for your medical needs, especially in California. Not just in an emergency. Prenatal counseling and services are offered even if birth control products are not.

                What hasn't been addressed in the US is the problems with lawyers, lawsuits and the insurance costs to protect the healthcare providers. Juries are happy to award millions in compensation for a 90 year old dying in hospital without being told the person smoked two packs a day, drank at least half a liter of hard alcohol and subsisted on bacon sandwiches. A woman can bring suit for "undue and unjust pain" during childbirth and get a judgement worth millions. They'd be better off asking for much less so it's not worth an appeal, but juries do what they like. The two aspirin you get in hospital costs as much as two bottles at the chemist due to the process in dispensing said aspirin and the insurance to dispense it.

                I see the issue in the US as politicians worrying about the symptoms rather than root causes.

                1. Geoffrey W

                  Re: Not office hours? No contact

                  RE: "I see the issue in the US as politicians worrying about the symptoms rather than root causes."

                  I see the issue as politicians worrying about donations from the insurance companies. Sick people are secondary to profits.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Not office hours? No contact

        It really is that easy for a lot of people

        And therein lies the problem. In a similar way to zero-hours contracts aren't a problem for a lot of people, there are those - usually more vulnerable - for whom it is a real problem.

        For example, as the article points out, for some there is a real worry over job security. So if you are in a position where you suspect that next week/month/year there will be an announcement of redundancies - you want to do all you can not to be one of the ones selected.

        So, for example, you'll want to be known as one who will step up and sort out the boss's presentation for tomorrow morning. Never mind that he could have asked you for the figures last week, you daren't tell him that when he asks you for them at 8pm the evening before the presentation. If you turn off and don't get the email, leaving the boss without the figures he didn't ask for in a timely manner, then you get labelled as a shirker and will be head of the queue when the axe is wielded. Doesn't matter that the boss is a useless idiot - he's still your boss and will be deciding who stays and who goes.

        As the article mentions, there are employers - Amazon being on (in)famous example - who do expect more of their employees than most consider reasonable. But people work for them and you might ask why ? It comes down to that basic need to have a roof over your head and food on the table - so if the choice is working for someone like Amazon or never switching off the work email, or starving on a park bench, then you'll put up with whatever bad practices get thrown at you. If there weren't more people looking for jobs than there are jobs going, then such practices would stop - simple supply and demand would ensure that "rubbish employers" wouldn't get people to work for them. But that's not the situation, and post covid ((UK perspective) various government support for businesses will be winding down over the next few months or so) it's only going to get worse.

        1. logicalextreme Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          Yep, completely agree — it's a "luxury" that I think a lot of us have in IT that you wouldn't necessarily find elsewhere in an office and especially not outside of one. I find that it's extra-infuriating when people with that "luxury" don't take advantage of it, as it shouldn't be a luxury for anybody, so subscribing yourself to a life-dominating concept of what work should be is just helping to maintain the status quo.

          I'm hoping that the net effect of Covid will be positive in this space, however — it's exposed how easy it is for a lot of people to work from home to everybody, whether they can or not. I know a fair few people who've always worked insecure jobs who, after Covid, aren't prepared to go back to that world except on fairer terms. Even before that I've usually encouraged them to either get into something more secure, or make sure they've got a support network ready to catch them if it backfires and then put their foot down to try and change their insecure workplace. Although the people that I know, while sometimes desperately poor, aren't usually desperately vulnerable. I'd hope that Brexit cutting off some of the flow of labour would be able to help starve the supply of workers somewhat to make these companies rethink their practices (may as well get something out of it) — other than that the best we can do is vote with our wallets; I've managed a couple of years clean from Amazon with no problems whatsoever and I'd be perfectly happy if they sold or abandoned their retail operations and just focused on their cloud biz. I'm also prepared to help my mates out financially wherever possible so they can afford to be a bit more daring with how they approach their work life.

          Now that I've put that all down I've realised how much I enjoy helping people improve their work lives, so maybe I'll go find a job doing that for when I finally get completely sick of computers!

        2. EarthDog

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          I wouldn't worry too much about axe wielding. It's just a spreadsheet game, "we need to eliminate 200 programmers to meet our goals", so the then grab 200 of the highest paid people and send them packing. Regardless of performance, how many patents they have thier names on, performance rating etc. I saw it happen at HP.

          Once your done w/ the extra task send our an email saying, the effect, "I worked late so I'll be in late tomorrow. That way everyone, inc. boss' boss, knows you are a hero and deserve well earned rest.

        3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          "In a similar way to zero-hours contracts aren't a problem for a lot of people, there are those - usually more vulnerable - for whom it is a real problem."

          The problem isn't the thing, it's the people without enough confidence to stand up for themselves. I've been promoted (on more than one occasion) for standing up for myself, but never fired. Bosses are happy to learn not only that their middle manager is a cock, but that there's a readymade replacement.

          1. logicalextreme Silver badge

            Re: Not office hours? No contact

            Aye, I hate training people but I've spent a hell of a lot of time getting people to stand up for themselves. Young people especially, in their first job or first office job, don't tend to have much of a reference point other than school, so they're under the impression that they have to do everything that's asked of them, which naturally leads to either intentional or unintentional abuse by the people delegating (I also advise people to pull a couple of sickies a year if they haven't been off sick, as I don't often get ill and have experienced incredulity from workplaces when I've genuinely been too ill to work after a long time on the job).

            But I've experienced it with some people in their thirties and even their forties too — they've just been putting up with shit for years. It can be a lot harder to give them the confidence to push back when they've got a family as they're obviously extra-terrified of the threat of sacking, even if it doesn't exist. And usually people that have been used to working that way for so long don't even have the confidence in themselves to believe that they could walk into any other job they liked if they did lose their job.

            I've heard stuff along the lines of "work to live, don't live to work" for my entire working life so I know it's not some dazzling new concept.

            1. jmch Silver badge

              Re: Not office hours? No contact

              "Young people especially, in their first job or first office job, don't tend to have much of a reference point other than school, so they're under the impression that they have to do everything that's asked of them"

              This, I believe, is part of the education systems of most countries by design. Schools are there to churn out obedient workers with just the minimum skill necessary to do a job, and as little crtitical thinking skills as possible.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Not office hours? No contact

              " I hate training people but I've spent a hell of a lot of time getting people to stand up for themselves."

              You have to stand up for yourself and set boundaries so you aren't abused as an employee, but you also have to stand up for yourself if you are asked to do something that will fail. The reason could be that it violates the laws of physics, but it could also mean there isn't enough time to do the work properly. The employee may also not have access to the tools and materials they need or have the training. We get trained to say "yes" all of the time since "no" is a negative concept. What's doesn't seem to be taught is that "no" can be a positive if it means that finding an alternative is more likely to lead to the desired results.

              I work for myself and participate in groups of people that do the same sort of work. Countless times I see people insist that one has to be available at all hours and never hesitate to answer a call. I don't see it that way. I don't want clients calling me late at night and expecting I will pick up. I also want them to understand that if I am working with them, I'm not going to interrupt their job or meeting to take a call. It's important that they learn to leave me a message so I know what they need ahead of time and I will get back to them during normal hours or as soon as I have an opening. One of the things I do is use ringtones to code my calls. I will excuse myself if my mom rings up. She is older and her calling could be very important. My sisters never call so if one does, it might mean an issue with mom. Friends mostly have custom rings and clients have two ring tones; one for the best ones and another for the rest (I don't tell them this). The bog standard default ring usually means a telemarketer, but I'll look at the caller ID if I'm not doing something else.

        4. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          While I can see the point, people need to realize that shit like this is not a good way to stay on the "keep" list. Very often it's not your immediate boss that is in charge of selecting who gets fired anyway and even if he is, it's unlikely he'd fire you JUST for not doing his bidding at 8PM that one time. Proving you're good at your job is more likely to keep you around. (If you have ambitions to take over your boss's job, don't show him that unless you can't avoid it. That's a surefire way to get on the shitlist)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not office hours? No contact

            Depends on the country, some countries are way more developed than others in this area.

            In the UK we might have shitty managers who would take issue with a report not being done on time, even if it was caused by their own bad timing, but they would have a hard time proving misconduct and getting HR to fire you. In the US the "you're fired" culture is very much a real thing. A manager can just terminate someone on a whim and explain to HR later. As long as they can prove the firing wasn't for a protected reason there will be no consequences for them.

            I've worked with a lot of US employed people and they seem so fearful of being let go that they'll do many things I would consider unreasonable to avoid getting on their manager's shitlist.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Not office hours? No contact

            "Proving you're good at your job is more likely to keep you around."

            It never hurts to be diplomatic and say no in many more words. "I could have you those figures, but it will take a few hours to pull them and put them in a format that's easy to understand at a glance. Will you authorize the overtime?" If you are salaried, work late and get the next day off in compensation if you can do that. Missing a child's birthday party might not be worth more than overtime or a day off.

            If it hurts or costs money for the boss to order up special services, they may limit their requests to only the times where it's an emergency. If they are being called out on the mat for something and higher ups need to see data right away, being asked to work OT isn't unreasonable. Train your boss to make it worth your time to be a "team player". If the next Monday is a bank holiday, perhaps you can be allowed to be missing on Friday as well and can get on jump traffic leaving town. 4 hours of work for 8 hours of PTO works for me.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not office hours? No contact

              "I could have you those figures, but it will take a few hours to pull them and put them in a format that's easy to understand at a glance. Will you authorize the overtime?"

              I used to crave the spondoolics but reaching 45 I now say, "Sure I can work later or cover, can I get TOIL for that and take it next week?". I find TOIL get agreed lightning fast 'cos it's cheaper and less paperwork than overtime. The boss can cover your absence for a day's TOIL when things are slack, you get an few more days off every year, they pay less overtimes which makes you look like a much cheaper investment than someone creaming the green in and your boss has less arguments with their boss about costs 'cos you put so little overtime in but got so much done.

              Getting older, time is short and I prefer the time to spend doing my hobbies. So long as your investments are topping up well, no point in having the best looking plot in the boneyard I say!

        5. Adelio Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          I have heard that some (Amazon) managers are worried because of the high staff turnover that they might run out of willing people to work for them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not office hours? No contact

            I doubt that. During the pandemic people were furloughed or lost their jobs, were stuck at home, getting into debt, ordering stuff. When the various employment support schemes wind down I think a lot more people will be let go from other jobs, so even more people will be willing to take on warehouse jobs for even lower pay, as even more people sit at home, spending money they don't have on things they don't need. It's a win win for amazon and I'd be surprised if they haven't already studied it and are waiting for it.

        6. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          "But people work for them and you might ask why ? It comes down to that basic need to have a roof over your head and food on the table "

          which is exactly why minimum standard working conditions have to be legislated for by the government and not left to companies to set for themselves. If for reasons of flexibility companies want to have employees available outside of working hours, or employees want flexible hours, the agreement should be clearly stated in a contract, and extra hours worked should be paid in time off in lieu or cash

        7. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          "leaving the boss without the figures he didn't ask for in a timely manner, then you get labelled as a shirker and will be head of the queue when the axe is wielded. "

          Bring that up at the exit interview when you leave for a new job.

          I don't know what gets into the PHB when they do ask for something like the trailing 90 day sales figures at 4:50pm the evening before a 9am presentation they are planning to make. I doubt the meeting was called at 4:45p and if it was, the problem is even higher up as well. Not only did the boss not delegate the work far enough in advance to make sure it was ready, any assistants they have fell down on the job as well. They should look bad.

          I have no problem if it takes some overtime to achieve a goal if the project has had good planning from the start. What I don't like last minute slap-dash projects with unrealistic timelines. Some MBA's hold a belief that just by putting things on a calendar, it can be made to happen. Only the good ones know that fighting on the front end for adequate resources and time makes them look much better than trying to put 5l of water in a 1l bottle and falling flat on one's face by accepting what's handed to them when they know it won't happen.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not office hours? No contact

            At a previous job (small company) we'd all get used to keeping our heads down and not interacting with the MD late in the day - especially as it gets to those last 10 minutes before knocking off time. He was a really nice person, but had no idea of time - and he had this habit of engaging people in conversations just before knocking off time, almost always stuff he could have talked about during the rest of the day, but he just had this habit of saving it all till you were about to head out the door.

            So we just didn't interact with him late in the day, and sometimes almost sneaked out !

          2. kiwimuso
            FAIL

            Re: Not office hours? No contact

            @MachDiamond

            .....90 day sales figures at 4:50pm the evening before a 9am presentation they are planning to make....

            As I used to quote, "lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

            Or words to that effect.

      3. T. F. M. Reader

        Re: Not office hours? No contact

        @logicalextreme: don't add your work accounts to your phone

        I'd also suggest reading your contract and your company's policies and "employee handbooks", etc. Chances are overwhelming, in my experience, that there are policies that prohibit putting company data - and that includes emails, messages, etc. - on non-approved personal devices. Effectively you are not allowed to add work accounts to your personal phone - the company can't expect you to break rules and policies, can it?

        I realise there are customers and other calamities, and I do not hide my personal mobile number from colleagues. I tell them that I do not check work email or messages off hours or on weekends, but if there is a real emergency that can't wait till tomorrow of the beginning of the next week they can call. But I don't promise I'll be in front of a computer, so I may or may not be able to help.

        This has never been abused. People don't think twice firing a message off, but when told they can use a personal phone number in an emergency they'll stop, hesitate, re-consider.

        1. logicalextreme Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          It's allowed at my place on the proviso that you allow it to be remotely wiped by the company, but given the regulatory minefield and physical security rules we have to negotiate in the day-to-day I'm pretty surprised that it's even an option.

          I also don't actively hide my number from colleagues, but I don't say anything about not working OOH unless I'm asked why I didn't reply to an email/message etc. — and haven't needed to at this job. I feel like stating it upfront normalises the idea a bit less; I'd rather feign astonishment at the idea that somebody interrupt their private life to do anything on top of their contracted work :D

        2. shade82000

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          Surely it's on them to manage this with permissions. If you can install a tool on your personal device and it's able to connect to your work systems then it's their responsibility to disable it if they don't want it to happen.

          Last year I installed Teams on my personal mobile because it seemed like a good idea, but I didn't really use it. It just installed with no problems and connected fine. Obviously I set the times to my working hours so I would show as unavailable in the evening.

          A few months later I went into the app because I was in a personal appointment, and after an update there was a message saying it needed to be a device admin so they could remote wipe. I just uninstalled it, I'm not allowing that.

          1. David Nash

            Re: Not office hours? No contact

            I've seen this requirement in the past. I didn't allow it either.

            But I understand it, it's in case your phone is lost or stolen and they want to be sure they can wipe any company data off it, not just about removing access to accounts.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Not office hours? No contact

              "But I understand it, it's in case your phone is lost or stolen and they want to be sure they can wipe any company data off it, not just about removing access to accounts."

              That's not a bad idea, but it also means that the company needs to provide the device. Mobile software isn't often of very high quality and there could be collateral damage if the company does a remote wipe. I wouldn't want to risk my personal phone being bricked or operationally damaged in some way.

            2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

              Re: Not office hours? No contact

              I agree, remote wipe of company data is a great idea. But remote wipe of my device and all MY data is a different thing altogether. Incidentally I once tried that with Outlook and my work account at my last place - same thing, needed to be an admin with the ability to wipe the device so didn't happen.

            3. shade82000

              Re: Not office hours? No contact

              I get the reasoning but android permissions are granular enough these days that it should be possible to grant an organisation administrative or wipe permissions for a single app, while denying them any kind of access to the rest of the phone / personal data. Maybe I'm wrong but 'device admin' suggests they could do other things apart from remote wipe.

              Imagine if it were the other way around, give me domain admin in case I need to access that shared folder one day.

              I wonder how many people who lose their phones with a work app installed actually notify their work that they lost it.

      4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Not office hours? No contact

        In some organizations it's not a problem. My co-workers have always had my personal contact information. I get called on my own phone maybe once every couple of years; and if I don't answer, or say I'm not available, that's not a problem.

        Obviously not everyone works in that sort of environment. But I certainly don't want a law saying when I can work and when I can't, or deciding for me when I'm reachable. I'll control that, thank you.

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          The proposed law doesn't restrict when you can work. It just restricts when you can be forced to work. If you want to do this voluntarily, then you would be free to do so.

          A bit like the European Working Time Directive, which was misrepresented by politicians for years.

      5. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Not office hours? No contact

        don't add your work accounts to your phone.

        Where I work it is forbidden to use personal equipment for any work tasks so not a problem - at 17:00 I turn off my work laptop and am totally out of contact.

    2. ShadowSystems

      Re: Not office hours? No contact

      Got it in one. Not work hours, then I'm not available.

      Employer wants to issue a phone for work related tasks that's fine, but I still won't answer it when I'm off the clock. Employer issues a work email for company purposes that's fine, but I won't check it when I'm not at work. Employer wants me to provide my home number for emergency contact purposes fine, but if they call me for any other reason then it'll start being picked up by my answering machine. No work email? I won't give them my real email address, I'll go make a work-related Gmail account & only check it during working hours.

      It all boils down to "If you aren't paying me then I'm not available." and even if you are paying me, I reserve the right to "accidently" be unavailable in the loo after an ultra greasy meal renders me glued to the porcelain throne. "Sorry I couldn't answer my phone, I left it on the charger while dropping sixteen tonnes in the WC."

      1. Boothy Silver badge

        Re: Not office hours? No contact

        Yup. I've done years of call out in the past, company phone (pager before that!). But I got payed an hourly rate for being available, and then an overtime rate if I actually got called, and to cover the time I had to actually do something.

        I was given the option many years ago to drop off the on-call rota, and took that option (I wanted my life back!). Still had the company phone for a good few years afterwards, but it was always turned off at the end of the work day, and turned back on the next work day.

        1. MiguelC Silver badge

          Re: Not office hours? No contact

          I used to have a company phone, but was not paid for out-of-hours availability. So I used to turn the phone off and/or put it in a desk drawer at the end of day and only pick it up the next day (I'd only take it with me if I was out of the office at the end of the day or would be the next morning). I was only asked once by a manager why I hadn't picked up a call, I explained what I did to the phone and in response received a kind of bemused look and no other comment...

          1. Boothy Silver badge

            Re: Not office hours? No contact

            I did the same for quite some time, we all had locked drawers in our desks (or a locker on request, if you hot desked), end of the day, mobile off, in drawer, locked, and leave for home.

            After a role change, I gradually stared to work from home more often, one or two days a week, plus started to visit client sites more regularly, bid work, solution workshops, that sort of thing. So the phone stayed with me at that point, but I still turned it off once I got home again, and only on after breakfast (or at least a coffee!).

    3. illiad

      Re: Not office hours? No contact

      TL;DR the replies, but if you use whats app or similar that grabs 'net access any way it can, there are a few good 'no root' firewalls that will make it think you phone is 'off' :D

    4. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Not office hours? No contact

      Similar here. I have a company phone, but it gets automatically set to silent at 16:30, although I've only been called a grand total of a dozen times on that phone in 3 years.

      The company policy is, out of hours, you are unavailable. They encourage us to turn the phone off at night and when we are on holiday, sick etc. I generally don't turn it off, just leave it on silent in my work backpack in the corner of the kitchen.

      Same with email etc. only available on a company device, not allowed to put it on private devices. So not contactable outside office hours.

      That was a real revelation after my previous employer, where I was berated for only checking my email once a day, when I was on holiday. On my first week of holiday for the new company, I glanced at my emails as I was drinking coffee, saw a problem being discussed that I could answer quickly and called my boss, he thanked me and told me, sternly, to turn off the damned phone and enjoy my leave!

      VW used to go one better, when workers came off-shift, the email service to them was capped, until they were due back in the office. That stopped them trying to check on emails in their well earned down-time.

    5. Adelio Silver badge

      Re: Not office hours? No contact

      I decided that i would NOT install ANY application o my phone for work purposes.

      My company decided that we should all use lastpass for password management but then decided that we had to use 2FA. Thing is the ONLY option for 2FA was to install an app on my phone. I refused!

      Unless they want to provide me with a work phone, why should i use mine.

      Also, since i am of a certain age I do no always remember to take a phone to work with me. I am not one of those people that need to look at it every 5 minutes!

      1. Bruce Ordway

        Re: Not office hours? No contact

        >> I do no always remember to take a phone

        Just send me an email - clearly stating the task/issue.

        I always respond, usually under 4 hours, evenings and weekends (but never mornings).

        I keep my overhead and rates low - so companies are happy to accept my schedule.

        Or if they aren't, I really don't want to work with them anyway.

    6. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Not office hours? No contact

      "My work life balance is quite simple. If it's not office hours, and not some agreed and planned well in advance exception, then I'm not available."

      It used to be the norm in field service that if you were on-call, you promised to have your pager on and answer calls. There was pay just for being on-call and more pay for doing work. Companies would limit bring in on-call techs so the added payroll wouldn't pile up and labor laws regarding overtime and maximum number of hours worked in given time period weren't violated.

      I used to be able to do on call stuff, but I can sleep pretty soundly at times now and even with my phone on it's "MineCraft" volume setting, it might not wake me up quickly enough before it stops ringing. A big pet peeve of mine is people blowing up my phone since I can't always answer immediately. They get one warning to never do that again and just leave a message. So far, it's never been an emergency on my part or the opportunity of making a huge amount of money or a case of really good scotch. If that were the case, I'd give them a pass.

      I see too many companies that expect their employees to take their phone with them and return calls when they are on holiday, maternity leave, etc. Not only return calls, but within a short period of time. All for no extra pay. To me, that's a failed business plan. Larger companies need to have overlap so any one person not being available isn't a huge emergency. They also have to plan if several ladies are going to be out on maternity leave around the same time. I've seen that a few times. It gets reported when some moron manager wants to require notification from staff when they are looking to start or add to their family. Small companies need to be agile enough to cover responsibilities when the need arises. Employees need to be keeping journals so the status of what they were working on can be found. It's a good practice all around to keep a work journal. It's bailed me out a couple of times.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Not office hours? No contact

        I see too many companies that expect their employees to take their phone with them and return calls when they are on holiday, maternity leave, etc.

        I see too many employees that think their company expects that, and of course after a few times doing it they've set their boss's expectations to assume they're happy with it. Too late to complain about it then.

  5. GlenP Silver badge

    24x7

    I expect to be available out of hours since we're a very small department supporting a group with companies in Australia and New Zealand amongst others. However I would only respond to emergencies, anything routine waits until my normal work time (which is longer than office hours but that's my choice).

    I also will pick up things when on leave if I have to, it reduces the stress when I return (having once had an employer cause me a week's work rebuilding a Unix box after they let an idiot of a service engineer at it while I was on holiday I'd rather know and react to major issues).

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: 24x7

      It's all to do with control. It's easy if you can choose when to be available. You're happier on holiday knowing that emergencies will be raised with you immediately rather than waiting for your return. That's not the same as being contacted without your consent (or with your grudging "I need to keep my job" consent).

      However, if I was a client of yours, I'd be wondering why there's only one person in the company who can handle the really important stuff...

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: 24x7

      For our remote sites, we have a designated "power user" on site, who is responsible for normal run-of-the-mill IT problems (toner, keyboards, locked up PCs etc.) plus a cupboard with some replacement PCs and monitors in it.

      They escalate it to us, the next morning, if it is more serious. Production line stand-stills are obviously escalated by the site manager, if they can't solve it themselves.

      I think, in the 3 years at my current employer, my boss has been dug out of bed twice - he makes sure all OOH calls go through him.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is unnecessary

    Always-on culture occurs when people can't switch off from their work.

    Not really, it occurs when people won't switch off from their work. Learn to say No.

    France adopted a right-to-disconnect law (L2242-17.7) in 2016.

    And a right PITA it is too. I work with teams in the US, EMEA and Australia. It is really convenient for me to have meetings and respond to emails when I want to. I can choose to reply at 10pm, or on a Sunday, if I want, knowing that it will avoid something spiralling into a crisis by my next official work period. I can also look out the window at the fresh snow when I get up, decide to ignore my phone and go skiing for the morning & then shift my day to align better with the US folks. Works better for everyone. If HR knew they would order me not to, and so make my work more difficult, but fortunately it's France, where everyone ignores inconvenient laws.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is unnecessary

      Agreed.

      I don't think legislation is the answer to this at all. It's about organizations treating their employees like adults. I work somewhere that gives you the freedom to do what's required. There's no stipulation as to when that is although there are, of course, deadlines that need to be hit.

      This means that I can roll out of bed at 11am if I wanted to do and work until 2am the following morning if I needed to. Or, work 17hr days on Mon, Tue, Wed and then take a really long weekend. I don't do that but I could.

      The company culture is - hire talented people with an entrepreneurial mindset. It means people work because they enjoy it and get satisfaction from doing the job well, whenever that may be.

      Personally, I work long hours because there's lots that I do in my day job and lots that I can help with outside of that. I get massive satisfaction from this and my career has progressed well because of the scope of my capabilities.

      I appreciate this doesn't work for everyone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is unnecessary

        No, does not work for everyone (hence AC)

        A lot of people are in unenjoyable jobs and are just working to pay the bills, "fun" jobs are few and far between.

        Had an enjoyable job once - had to leave as pay was just too low (was in that time of life when cost of kids, mortgage, commute etc. was high and keeping family finances out of the red took precedence over being happy at work).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is unnecessary

        I don't think legislation is the answer to this at all. It's about organizations treating their employees like adults

        Like most employment laws.

        The problem is that while most employers will act decently, there are always the minority who don't. Look at the plethora of employment laws in this country (UK) and you'll see that a large proportion of them fall into the "don't really apply to most because for a decent employer it just makes sense". Rules that effectively say "don't injure or kill your employees, and do all you can to stop them injuring or killing themselves" are just common sense for most because it's just good business sense (there's a real cost to injuries) - but for a minority, providing safe working conditions is just a cost and you can always pick up another employee when one's no longer fit to work. Similarly, there is an explicit law about not making deductions (other than agreed and mandatory ones) from wages - again, a decent employer will know that stealing from your employees isn't good business sense, while some would see it as an opportunity to reduce the cost of running the business.

        So this one is (mostly) about making sure that all employers do it - not just the ones that are good enough to be sensible & fair anyway.

        And BTW - I've experienced different ends of the scale. I've worked for employers who have good (e.g.) sick pay policies - you know, they realise that having someone go into the office with a bad cold means that they'll give it to everyone else, so you get full pay for those odd days off (but have a discussion with HR if you take the wee-wee). And I've worked for an employer where nothing was anything more than the minimum imposed by law - so you had to juggle being sensible (i.e. not being a Typhoid Mary) and paying the bills (technically, non-statutory sick pay was at the discretion of the boss - guess how often he paid anyone for odd days off !)

        And I've witnessed bullying where a manager stood over a junior and told him "sign this new contract now, or I;ll take back that extra pay you've had - and I can". The junior signed a new contract, taking away pretty well all his rights, because he couldn't afford to risk saying no - another colleague, more important to the company and with enough experience to know his rights, told the same manager where to put the new contract. I did report the bullying, but as with the other cases I reported - nothing happened because ... small company, the person you complain to is ... the person who's the problem.

        1. logicalextreme Silver badge

          Re: This is unnecessary

          Yep — as pretty much an anarchist at heart, I don't believe we should need laws at all. We should all be able to trust people to do the right thing. Unfortunately, some people need "the right thing" to be explained to them (not necessarily a criticism), and even a moment's experience in the real world tells you that you can't trust people to do the right thing. Laws and regulation are one of the ways we have to guarantee people a semblance of protection, same way I suspect most people have locks on their outer doors.

          1. Adelio Silver badge

            Re: This is unnecessary

            Assuming that people will ONLY do the right thing is amusing and stupid. Some people will, but others will always take the mick.,

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: This is unnecessary

          I'd have made a written and signed statement about the incident and handed that to the junior. Plus told him that if they end up in court over that new contract I witnessed the exchange and am willing to testify against the boss. (And advise him to go to a lawyer about having the boss/company tear up the new contract with threats of legal action about coercion). Mention the L word and many many companies suddenly reconsider their hardline stance.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is unnecessary

            Oh I made it known that I'd witnessed it, and made it clear that I'd support my colleague if he wanted to take it further. But scared of the L word - you're 'avvid a laff there. The person concerned is one of those who's so cock sure of himself that he'd not be in the least bit bothered as he "knows" he's right.

            Unfortunately, when we (the two of us and a third with health problems) were magically found to be redundant, I was just too far down a black hole (mostly work induced depression) to take them to a tribunal - it was 6 months before I could get out of bed without feeling anxious.

            I think I might have had a small chance of demonstrating that in fact that we were only redundant because of a series of seemingly (on their own) "lost the contract" events that were in fact events that should have triggered TUPE considerations. But just having the two little ****s have to explain themselves to a tribunal that doesn't take s**t from cocky know it alls would have been worth it even if I hadn't won anything.

            But in hindsight, getting made redundant from there was the push I needed. Other mental health issues had stopped me making the move myself even though I should have left several years earlier. So mostly I'm happy to be out of it and working somewhere where I'm valued - complete with my neurodiversity.

    2. keithpeter Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: This is unnecessary

      "If HR knew they would order me not to, and so make my work more difficult, but fortunately it's France, where everyone ignores inconvenient laws."

      But they *have* that law and can use it when needed.

      Below is a long read in the form of a book review for anyone who might be interested.

      https://theconvivialsociety.substack.com/p/the-paradox-of-control

      Icon: off out for a walk

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is unnecessary

        But they *have* that law and can use it when needed.

        Laws can't be "used when needed". If it's a law it has to be applied always, and fairly.

        If you want flexibility, get it put in your employment contract and then use existing employment law to enforce those terms. A global nanny-state law that tells people when they can and cannot choose to work is not the solution.

        1. keithpeter Silver badge

          Re: This is unnecessary

          I was being a tiny bit flippant in reply to the post above mine. See the bit I put in italics in my reply. I should perhaps have used the joke icon.

          However, my experience has been that things in contracts don't always automatically happen...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is unnecessary

          "Laws can't be "used when needed". If it's a law it has to be applied always, and fairly."

          Can I come and live in Cloud-cuckoo-land with you please? There are plenty of examples of laws being applied differently for different people - poorer people can't afford the best lawyers.

          Perhaps you could give an example of a law that you think has always been applied in a completely fair and equitable manner?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is unnecessary

            poorer people can't afford the best lawyers.

            That has nothing to do with the laws themselves, but of the system.

            Perhaps you could give an example of a law that you think has always been applied in a completely fair and equitable manner?

            Not what I said. I said that if you create a law you can't define it so that someone can arbitrarily choose to apply it only when convenient. That isn't a law, it's just a code of practice.

      2. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: This is unnecessary

        Thanks for the link. It looks interesting. I'll read it this afternoon.

        BTW, I can't imagine why someone downvoted your post. I suppose that's more proof , if any were needed, that it's wall-to-wall crackpots out there, and the internet has given each and every one of them a voice.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: This is unnecessary

      If it's a PITA, they're doing it wrong.

      French law allows the employees' available periods to be defined, and if the employee is working, say, 8 hours a day with flexible start and end periods then their email/IM availability could also be defined as those same hours.

      So if you're a night owl and work late for 2-3 hours in the day and everyone knows it and is happy with it, you wouldn't be expected to reply when you're not working but other people are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is unnecessary

        French law allows the employees' available periods to be defined,

        Up to a point. It's illegal to work on Sundays and some public holidays, for example. The difference between "blue collar" and "white collar" is enshrined in law, and 'blue collar" workers have strict limits on weekly hours, overtime included.

        All that leads to, of course, is people working "au noir" - illegally, outside those limits. As such they have no insurance or accident cover outside the official hours.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: This is unnecessary

          Who do you think insures you when you work from home in the UK or the US?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is unnecessary

            Who do you think insures you when you work from home in the UK or the US?

            I can't speak for the US, but in the UK (and France) you're covered by the government schemes when you're officially at work, wherever that may be.

            For example, injure yourself in a fall at work, it's a workplace accident & treated as such, you'll get compensation, paid time off, etc. If it happens when you're not officially at work, for example when you're working illegally, your health expenses will probably be covered but you won't be entitled to other benefits that would be paid to an injured employee, for example unemployment and housing benefits. In France it's a particular problem in the construction industry, which employs many people illegally and where accidents can be serious.

    4. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: This is unnecessary

      And a right PITA it is too

      I totally disagree there, because it's a mandatory protection for wage slaves. There are many employers that would put a lot of pressure on their underlings to answer mails and phone calls 24h a day without it.

      You seem to have a boss who is comprehensive enough to let you organize yourself. However your case is quite specific and is not the reality for everyone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is unnecessary

        it's a mandatory protection for wage slaves

        Not the same situation. No-one should be forced to work hours they haven't agreed to, and there are existing laws to prevent that. This proposal is to set limits on what an employee can agree to, even if they want to. That is not acceptable. If I want to answer my phone at weekends if my boss calls that's my choice, no-one else's.

        You seem to have a boss who is comprehensive enough to let you organize yourself.

        Well, I have a boss that treats me as an adult, as have all my bosses for the past 40-odd years. I wouldn't work for someone who didn't.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: This is unnecessary

          > This proposal is to set limits on what an employee can agree to, even if they want to.

          Because otherwise the first page of all contracts would be waiving any limits on working hours, or health and safety or any other law.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is unnecessary

            Because otherwise the first page of all contracts would be waiving any limits on working hours, or health and safety or any other law.

            So, don't sign it.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: This is unnecessary

              Your offer of employment is withdrawn. We'll find someone else who will sign it.

              NEXT!

              1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: This is unnecessary

                Dunno about you, but I wouldn't want to work for a company that treated its staff like that anyway.

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  Re: This is unnecessary

                  Nor would I. I, and likely you, are in a position where we have skills which are demanded and where we have sufficient savings to live while finding a replacement job. This doesn't mean it's necessarily easy for us, but we can do it without having severe justified worries about the wellbeing of ourselves or our families. Many others lack one or both of these things, which is why we sometimes have to encode basic protections in law.

                  1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                    Exactly the point

                    Those with very little experience and a lot of student debt have very little choice.

                    Those with little to no savings - and perhaps a dependent family have no choice at all.

                    Those two cover the vast majority of the workforce.

                    There's only two ways to solve this:

                    1) Legislation to ban these practices, with genuine enforcement.

                    2) A universal basic income, so everyone can tell a bad employer to get stuffed without losing their home or being unable to eat.

                    The third option of ignoring the problem because "I'm alright Jack" is unethical and very foolish - it only takes a few months to burn all your savings and be forced to take minimum wage indentured servitude to keep body and soul together, as a great many people have found over the last year or so.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I’m not on call

    When i applied for this job I was told I’d go on the on call rota which I didn’t mind, especially with the extra dosh plus learning the environment.

    After joining I was told I didn’t need be on the rota and therefore no extra dosh.

    I was fine with that.

    So I don’t have work mail or chat on my personal phone. Outside of working hours I will answer the phone if they call but I limit who has my number and do let whomever calls know I’m 9to5 only.

    Even when it’s hectic at work, once my hours are done that’s it, switch off and do something less boring instead.

    If they want me to do more hours then we can talk overtime first.

    I know it sounds belligerent but for decades I worked more hours than I should and watched those around me get applauded for my graft. The trick is to shine when it matters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I’m not on call

      I really enjoy working for the company I am currently with. However, when I first joined it was explained that there was a paid on call rota but it was voluntary. This was in my contract and I decided against it. My time outside of work was more valuable to me than the on call and overtime pay.

      Later, after several staff had left they wanted to change the policy to say that going on call was mandatory. I stated that wasn't what my contract said. I also told them that if they insisted I would do it, but unlike most staff, I live quite a long way from the office and most of the clients.

      I also told them I don't answer the phone while driving and that I would not let calls take me away from stuff I had to do like taking the kids to school and evening activities. If I get a call when doing this, I would respond as soon as I could, which could be up to an hour later and it then might be some time before I could get home to respond remotely or to the client if on site work was needed.

      They decided that I would not have to be on call after all.

      I will still answer calls if there is something urgent and I am the only person that can help. This happens very rarely (maybe a couple of times a year) and I respond on my own terms. If I am busy doing something with the family, they will have to wait. If it needs a lengthy response I will put in an overtime claim. I am happy with this arrangement and so is the company.

      State your case, know your contract and rights. A reasonable employer will usually be able to reach an accommodation with you. If they won't then seriously consider if you want to stay there.

      Above all, don't work for free!

  8. Giles C Silver badge

    Switching off

    I had a manager once call me on my personal phone about 6 times in an evening.

    My phone was on silent as

    1 it was my personal device

    2 I wasn’t on call that week

    3 I was watching a film.

    When it is on silent only a few peoples number overrides it and it rings.

    The reason for the call they were doing a cascade test….

    When I did answer (about 3 hours after the calls) I got moaned at for not answering the phone. I pointed out that I didn’t for the reasons above and if they wanted me to answer anytime then it wasn’t going to happen.

    I also said that once I leave the office then I don’t care what happens until the next morning.

    I won’t put any corporate stuff on a personal phone, or any of my own computers. If they insist on that then they can take a jump.

    Mind you as a contractor they can’t force it on me.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Switching off

      The reason for the call they were doing a cascade test….

      "They're waiting for you Gordon, in the test chamber."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Switching off

      Fek 'em Giles, you're a contractor. If they cared about you that much you would be an employee, am I right or what.

      1. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Switching off

        I was an employee then - forgot to put in a previous role…

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Switching off

      > I had a manager once call me on my personal phone

      > 1 it was my personal device

      > I got moaned at for not answering the phone.

      > Mind you as a contractor they can’t force it on me.

      Are you sure you are a contractor?

      1. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Switching off

        This was in a previous job when I was employed as a full time worker

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Switching off

      Bloody contractors always wanting more

      ;)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ???

    Use the power off button, as you depart the building or office you work at. Job done, simple. If they complain, then you're working for the wrong organisation, find another job

    AC Obviously

  10. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "She also warns against making a law so prescriptive that it would stifle flexible working. "

    Surely it could be really simple. You have a contract of service or a contract for services. Either way, it's a contract that should specify your standard hours (if any) and any foreseeable exceptions (if any). Anything else should be by agreement on the given occasion.

    For example, I once had a contract with a consultancy whereby I could accept or refuse any assignment, but the hours involved if I accepted were whatever it took to deliver, I could only bill up to the total hours agreed by the consultancy with the client and the contracted delivery deadline could only be changed with the consent of all parties.

    It actually worked very well for all three parties because it was all formally agreed and documented so everyone knew what to expect. It's the uncertainty of "always available" that most people find the greatest burden.

  11. adam 40 Silver badge

    Maximum weekly working hours

    We already have a regulation: https://www.gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours

    Based on the EWTD but we have kept it going since Brexit.

    What's wrong with invoking that?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Maximum weekly working hours

      Because it has so many loopholes

      Doesn't apply "where working time is not measured " so if you don't physically clock in and out then it doesn't apply to you

      Does reading an email at midnight count 1min toward your 48hours ?

      What if you get a quick 1min email every hour ?

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Maximum weekly working hours

      One problem is that counting hours can be hard. For example, I work a normal amount, but I can also be on call. I don't really want to be on call, and I'm not paid any more for it. I'm also on call at any hour of the day for a week. Theoretically, you could count that as 168 straight hours of work since at any point during that period, someone could call. I haven't quit though because that doesn't really happen. Most calls come in when I'm near enough to working hours anyway, I haven't gotten calls in the middle of the night, etc.

      So does this count as no hours because people only called during working hours, two hours because I worked late on those days, or 168 hours because I had to be available to work if called and therefore couldn't do things that blocked that? How about calls which come in early in the morning, three hours before I'd ordinarily start. Does it count as one hour because that's how long it took to resolve it, three because it started my workday early, or is it included in the 168 because it probably woke me up?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Maximum weekly working hours

        Does it also mean that you can never have a drink because you might need to drive into the office/data-center, that you need to have child/pet care available 24x7 at no notice, that you can never travel more than 1 hour from the office/datacenter etc etc

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Maximum weekly working hours

          In my case, no. It means that I have to be able to receive calls and get to my work computer to respond to incidents. I don't have to manage hardware and I can do everything from home. It still could restrict my actions; my manager would probably forgive me not responding if my phone battery failed, but if I decided to go somewhere far away without my laptop, then they'd be a bit more grumpy. Given the sparse incidents, I'm usually comfortable taking some risks with this.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Maximum weekly working hours

            My partner does on-call weekends, fortunately its a union job so gets paid, but it does mean they have to be by their phone and computer all weekend - so can't go out anywhere unless you are sure the cell reception is good

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: Maximum weekly working hours

              Had a short period of that in the past too. Fortunately we were right in a period of discussing the structure of our work and client contract negotiations. Our boss was somehow genuinely surprised when 6 of us unanimously stated we would much rather actually be at work and working while on call (and shift the weekend if working, so work on Saturday and Sunday, then get Monday and Tuesday off the next week). Took a bit of haggling and back and forth but in the end it ended up with us just working 2 alternating shifts and 1 weekend a month, and being on call during work.

              The problem as I see it here is that the sort of people on the boss/manager side are often the sort of high/over-achievers that genuinely don't see a problem with always being able to take a call (and don't understand why just picking up the phone like a glorified secretary isn't sufficient). They are so used to always having their phone on them and answering it at any time that it seems normal and logical to them. While to us techies it meant being unable to truly just enjoy the day because "being able to take a call" and getting to the client site within 1 hour had to always be in our minds. For some that basically meant not being able to go anywhere as they lived nearly an hour away to begin with. So for us working early/late 2 shifts with the occasional weekend was ideal.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: Maximum weekly working hours

                Yes that's exactly the point - the boss who spends a minute to call you and thinks that it's no big deal because it's only a minute and forget about the hour you spend fixing the problem

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Maximum weekly working hours

                  Or my favourite

                  "It only takes five minutes"

                  Yeah, it only takes five minutes to ruin my fucking evening.

  12. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

    FFS

    Put your phone down. Block work notifications after 6pm, or just ignore them. Or if you're being paid to answer, don't complain.

    This really isn't hard. Boss says 'I tried to call you last night and you didn't answer', you say 'wow, have you had all the fire damage cleaned up already?'

    If you don't let them treat you as a doormat, they won't.

  13. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    I have a proper, grown up professional contract which means that I have no set working hours; I just have to get the job done. The French scheme would be completely impractical for me and my professional colleagues because none of us knows when the others are working and so it would be damn nearly impossible to send a group email when all the recipients were working.

    As so often with EU legislation, what looks worker friendly is anything but. It's really an attempt to get everyone to work 9-5.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Sending a group email is fine. The boss expecting a particular person to read and respond to said email immediately at certain hours is not.

      1. A K Stiles
        Facepalm

        Expecting someone to respond to an email immediately at ANY time is nonsense. Email is not a synchronous communication method. Even during normal working hours I only check email between bits of 'actual' work, and make sure there are no notifications enabled as otherwise there would be no scheduled work done due to constantly answering all the "can you just..." messages, or even just the checking that the latest email isn't something that requires immediate attention.

        Still baffles some of my colleagues though - I get a phone call - "What do you reckon?" "to what?" "about the XYZ" "what about the XYZ?" "In the email I sent you" ""Oh, haven't seen it - is it on fire?" "Oh no it's just that I was talking to A about it and we wondered whether...."

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      Some people do have set working hours. Lots of people, in fact. Their entire contracts are based around that assumption. If those people are required to work outside regular hours, then that work should be counted as overtime. Also, answering emails and phone calls counts as work. If a company needs someone to be available at arbitrary times, then a contract with set working hours is not the right solution. These are not difficult concepts, really.

      1. Shalghar

        "flexibility" anyone ?

        That sounds nice but you would need a management that actually cares about contracts and regulations.

        And that is capable of actually planning and managing.

        As too many high praised managers seem to be unable to actually manage, the call for "more flexibility" arises.

        Almost everything about this overpraised "flexibility" can be seen as desperate or stubborn management trying to coerce their subordinates in patching up said managements shortcomings on their personal time and expense.

        Managements cry for "flexibility" should be translated as the cry to not give a flying donkey about contracts, regulations or reality.

        Last time one of my bosses called for "more flexibility" and added the usual "for the company" male cattle manure i said:

        "If you want flexibility, go learning yoga or buy a ton of rubber bands."

        Yeah, grumpy. I tend to get that after more than 14 hours straight work on a hopeless project way behind any reasonable milestone.

        We had some "nice" discussion after that incident. This discussion was cut short apruptly as i unfolded the list of management issues that lead to the situation. Always have your documentation ready also counts for proof....

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "I have a proper, grown up professional contract which means that I have no set working hours; I just have to get the job done. "

      I work like that as well when I can. It doesn't mean that I'll take calls or respond to email outside of normal hours. I get the most done when I can turn the ringer off and spend the required amount of time concentrating on the work. Every interruption can mean 10 minutes or more of lost time "reacquiring the target". If I can get into a zen flow, I can get a whole bunch of work done at one sitting. When I get to a natural stopping point, I'll come up for air. Sometimes that's 20 minutes, sometimes a couple of hours.

  14. EricB123

    We Need a Law for Everything?

    When it gets to the point that the need for laws to prevent employers from asking for employees to be on 24 hr call for non-emergencies... You know, many states in America have a law that you can't hang an air freshener from your car's rear view mirror?? How about a law against general stupidity and tyranny and just leave it at that?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our response to Covid has rapidly accelerated many things that were already going in the wrong direction, and the "always-connected" culture that was already developing was no exception. I know this article is referring to work-related issues, but there is exactly the same problem in the social space. Thanks to Covid regulations, everything now needs an app, which in my opinion is taking us in completely the wrong direction. We need to stop our dependence on technology, and re-learn how to connect and interact meaningfully in the real world.

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      "We need to stop our dependence on technology, and re-learn how to connect and interact meaningfully in the real world."!

      I don't want to do that. Are you going to pass a law to force me?

  16. IGotOut Silver badge

    One reason I quit IT.

    Now shit pay, but soon as I work out the door, my time.

    Overtime? My choice, not theirs.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just don't work for free

    Don't work for free.

    I used to when I was young, stupid and had no family responsibilities. I don't anymore. I point blank refuse to set up email on my mobile. As far as I am concerned, email isn't urgent anyway and it is something that is strictly viewed in work time.

    If something is urgent, call me, but it had better be genuinely urgent. I am available for certain people to call me out of hours in an emergency. I know they won't abuse it so I will answer. I will respond if I am able, but if I am doing family stuff then it will have to wait until I am in a position to help.

    If somebody insists you respond on your own time, put in an overtime claim.

    If an organisation is depending on people working for free, then they are understaffed and/or badly managed. Either way, that is a problem for management, not you. If you let people abuse you then it will become expected and if there is a staffing issue it won't push them to solve it if everybody else bends over backwards. The management will just crow to their bosses about how efficient they are and get a bonus at your expense.

    This is especially the case in a large organisation. When working for small companies, I have been a lot more flexible, but that is because there is a lot more give and take. If I put in extra hours unpaid, I knew I would be able to take time when I wanted it.

    Don't work for free!

    1. batfink Silver badge

      Re: Just don't work for free

      Agreed. It's common that organisations of all sizes rely on their workers giving them time for free. I stopped playing that game some years ago when I realised that all I was doing was giving my (large) company my free time so they could make a better profit.

      It's been the case with several companies I've worked for where they say "you're not allowed to book more than 40 hours pw no matter how many you've actually done". It's just a way of hiding the fact that they're getting free labour.

      This, of course, benefits the managers and the shareholders. It doesn't benefit the ones whose time is being given.

      TL;DR: Pay me for my time or fuck off.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Just don't work for free

      "When working for small companies, I have been a lot more flexible, but that is because there is a lot more give and take."

      That's one of the perks of working with a small company. There's some risk about stability and budgets aren't as open ended, but hours can be flexible and often times it's possible to put in extra hours and get them refunded in days off. That can be great if you have kids. I might also mean getting an extra day off on one end of a bank holiday which can let you avoid the worst of the traffic if you have plans to be elsewhere.

  18. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Burnout

    I work in a highly pressured Support environment (medical equipment) so there is even more pressure than usual to be available. However, because of the pressure I always counsel my colleagues to switch off when their shift is over and avoid the temptation to work those extra hours to "impress" somebody. Several have ignored my counsel over the years and a few of those have burned out before the company recognised what was happening. In the end the company gained a few extra hours work for free, but all the time and effort invested in training and developing that person, not to mention their experience, is now lost because they left. Some companies/managers recognise this and try to prevent it, but many still have the braindead culture where everyone walks around bragging how late they worked last night. I now laugh at such people when they tell me that they worked 60 hours last week. I say, "Wow, perhaps you should learn to be more efficient. I did the same work as you but mine got done in normal working hours."

    I have a work mobile but I never check emails/messages outside of my working hours. If I'm needed, they can phone me. If I don't answer, they can call someone else. If it's super urgent, a small number of people also have my personal mobile number but I live my life as if nobody is going to call.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do journalists live on a different planet??

    @Danny_Bradbury

    Danny......where have you been living......perhaps on another planet?

    *

    Once upon a time (1994), in a land far away (US), I worked for a big consulting firm. The firm had just started handing out laptops to everyone, just after implementing nationwide cc:Mail and nationwide voice mail.

    *

    So......starting in 1994, the lives of ALL consultants became a treadmill of checking email and voicemail. If you were lucky, two or three times a day might suffice...or not!!

    *

    So, Danny, where have you been for the last twenty seven years?

  20. MisterHappy

    Joining the bandwagon

    At the moment if I choose to do an extra 30mins at the end of the day because it would be a hassle to stop and start again, I can and because it is my choice I don't log the hours. If I am asked to work late then I will claim the overtime.

    I am lucky enough that I am in a position to shut off completely from work at the end of the day, although it has taken some effort to get over to my manager & project managers that when I shut down my laptop I will no longer see any emails or Teams messages.

    I can sympathise with the people who feel the need to impress as I have worked for companies where promotions/payrises were handed out on the basis of "Jim worked 30 extra hours to get x project completed" or "Bob is always available if I have a problem, no matter what time of night.".

    It is very easy to tell people to just turn off their phone but as has been stated by others, not everyone is financially secure enough or secure enough in their position to tell the boss no.

  21. Martin Silver badge
    Facepalm

    It used to be...

    ....the case that in many finance jobs, you had to take two weeks consecutive leave from your job every year. This was not out of altruism - this was to ensure that any fraudulent scam you might have running would probably come unravelled during the two weeks you were off, and they could sack you (and possibly prosecute you). Certainly, when I retired five years ago from a US bank, the requirement still existed.

    However, there was NOTHING to stop you from logging in from home during this two week break to (potentially) keep the scam running. We used to try to insist that when you went on holiday, your login was temporarily disabled until you returned. But we could never get this agreed by senior management....because they wanted people to login while they were on holiday and keep an eye on their mail, and potentially fix any issues...

    Oh well...

  22. po

    Attention economy

    It's not just work-related calls on your time, though. Most people's work days now include social media, contact with friends and family, other interruptions which slow the pace and flow of the job in front of you. Our devices also pursue us after hours, with crackified content and the constant siren song of social media, games, etc. I've found the best way to secure my sanity was to strip down all digital interactions, closing my Facebook and Instagram accounts and deleting all but a handful of Apps from my phone, implementing a policy of blocking all non-essential emails at work (including from colleagues I designate as "time wasters"), using a disposable email account to open accounts and services, etc. It's freed up an amazing amount of time that, in the days before the smart phone, would probably have been spent taking cigarette breaks and dropping into the pub for a quick one between meetings.

  23. FuzzyTheBear
    Mushroom

    Pull the plug Scotty .. the M5 is out of a job

    Simple .. pull the plug .. if they expect you to be always at the end of a leish your choice.

    Mine is to leave the work cell at the office.

    I don't answer emails from work but during the office hours.

    If i'm not paid to be on standby then i ain't on standby, simple.

    Go to your deputy at the commons and tell them to do their job and legiferate against it.

    We have the right to have a life.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Pull the plug Scotty .. the M5 is out of a job

      "Go to your deputy at the commons and tell them to do their job and legiferate against it."

      It might be better to be more proactive with you employer. Discuss their communication policies with them. If they require you are always reachable, tell them that's fine and then ask what the on-call compensation plan is for that. It's it overtime, a bigger percentage at bonus time or days off in lieu. Put them on their back foot while at the same time not coming straight out and telling them to get stuffed. If you get back "ahhh, err, mmmmm, it's expected that you are open to this to show you are a team player, blah blay". Oh, ok, so the base salary is £xxxx and we can estimate xx% of out of office needs <insert insane calculation>, so that means £xxx,xxx annual salary plus PTO, matching funds, profit sharing, vehicle support, etc, right? Maybe they come back with them just paying you that base salary with no after-hours requirements. I would certainly not be put off by getting 3x compensation for the extra effort. At some point it just isn't worth it, but that's where you spend time looking for a better fit while fleecing the company you are with. I work for myself now, and I'm more than happy to provide rush service, weekend appointments, etc, but at a premium to my regular rates. I don't answer the phone or email late at night though. Extra money is great, but I like to get my beauty rest (I need all I can get).

  24. Dropper

    In my job I'm not allowed to be part of the always on culture, because they're now too afraid to let me join.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Play the game back

    "Home workers will often log in during what would have been their commute time, Pakes says, creating a form of unpaid overtime."

    Yep, and that's why we're all going to be allowed to hybrid-work, 'cos companies aren't stupid and the sly ones know we'll put in at least an extra 5-10 hours a week for free! I log in during the time I would have commuted but I take a 2 hour lunch break every day and go for walks midday or get some time with the missus while the kids are out, I clock off on time, prod issues permitting of course.

  26. Shalghar

    The easier you can be reached the more this privilege will be abused

    As correct as it is to call out on "always on(line)" jobs and naturally accounting for emergency jobs and emergency situations, there is no real protection from abusive behaviour and coerced interruptions of "offline" time.

    Two colleagues who are in constant danger of needing support (those are the guys in on site,on call roles) do indeed have my private new mobile number. The few times they used that privilege were absolutely reasonable and necessary.

    I made the mistake to give out my old private mobile number for emegencies only, thats why i have a new one now.

    Being called in real emergencies is not something i would object to. What did take place was sadly (and- as any cynic may say- predictably) a bit different from that one and only purpose.

    - Can you shorten your day off and come over to help clean up a "management oversight" ?

    - Can you come back from whereever you are on holiday on your own cost to help finish a project that "suddenly" has issues ?

    - We just found out that the guy who quit/was sacked did not finish his last task in a totally unrelated field to yours. Advise on the phone what to do to get the machine running.

    - We have a machine that you were never involved in. Now assist with the diagnosis via phone.

    - Nobody else is in reach.so you must come over now.

    - Repeated calls, partly from the same person, concerning an issue i already gave every info i have.

    - You have to come over now for overtime to finish the machine, no matter that the necessary parts will not arrive before next week."We must show that we do everything to finish the job" (tm)*

    and my personal super favourite from a company that sacked me 2 years prior to the phone call:

    "You must cover the next nightshift."

    "Why ?"

    "You always covered shifts when we had issues."

    "Then maybe you should not have sacked me two years ago ?"

    "Oh....... Maybe i should delete your name from this list ?"

    "That would be fine, have a nice day."

    This little anecdote shows precisely how much you "secure your job" if you try to cover every issue thats coming up.

    *(tm=totally moronic)

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