Disconnecting From Work
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What does Disconnecting from work mean?
Disconnecting from work means not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or sending or reviewing messages, and being free from work performance outside of established working hours.
Q. Why does Lakehead University have disconnecting from work policy?
In November 2021, the Ontario government passed Bill 27, which legislates that all Ontario employers must establish a “Disconnect from Work' policy by June 2, 2022. Lakehead welcomes this as another effort related to our Wellness Strategy. Early indications suggest that the inability to disconnect from work could cause workers to experience poor recovery from work (due to the inability to “switch off”), increased work-life interference, higher levels of burnout, a sense of fatigue, and increased health impairments. One of the best ways to achieve a work-life balance is discussing and agreeing on when and how employees may disconnect from work. This policy describes the best practices that can promote employees’ and their colleagues’ ability to disconnect from work.
Q. Is Ontario the only province that has implemented this policy?
Yes, Ontario is the first province in Canada to introduce a requirement related to disconnecting from work. A number of countries have recently introduced legislation giving employees the legal right to disconnect electronically from work. Originating in France, this legislation has now expanded to Ireland, Canada, Spain and other countries.
Q. Is the Disconnecting from Work policy applicable to all employees?
This Policy applies to all employees, as defined by the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”), whether they are working remotely, in the workplace, flexibly or are mobile. For clarity, “employee” under this Policy means only those employees of the University which are considered employees under the ESA. This Policy does not afford employees a “right to disconnect” beyond what is within their individual employment contract, applicable collective agreement and/or any minimum statutory entitlements under the ESA, which may include rights, exemptions or entitlements speaking to: hours of work and hours free from work, overtime pay, meal and/or rest periods, public holidays and public holiday pay, and vacation.
Q. What can I do to Disconnect from Work?
Take your meal breaks, rest periods and hours free from work: During your work breaks, engage in activities completely unrelated to any work-related tasks. This might include going outside for fresh air; spending a few minutes reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube video related to your personal interests or hobbies; or engaging in a short meditative practice or activity to improve your physical and mental well-being.
Use technology to remind you: Schedule time to disconnect and build in uninterrupted protected time at some point in your day that works for your work and home life. You can schedule breaks in your calendar, use timers or auto-reminders, or whatever works to remind you to take breaks.
Take your vacation: Vacation days help provide rest and recovery to allow you to bring your best self to work and your life.
Separate work from home: If working remotely, have protected spaces at home where you do not engage in work-related tasks. It may also be helpful to use different electronics for personal use and work, if possible.
Bookend your day with supportive routines: Have a start-up routine that helps you feel organized, grounded, and ready to start an effective workday. Create an end of day routine, such as taking a walk, that signals the close of the workday.
Q. Does “Disconnect from work” mean that I cannot send emails outside of my working hours?
The ability to disconnect doesn’t mean you can’t send emails when it’s convenient for you, but you shouldn’t expect the recipient to respond to you if it is outside their regular working hours. If you know the working schedule of your colleague, vendor or third party, try to avoid sending emails or calls apart from their operating hours.
Q. Do I have the autonomy to disconnect from work? Can I take time off if the assigned work is completed for the day?
The policy provides you the right to disconnect from work within the limitation of your employment contract, applicable collective agreement and/or any minimum statutory entitlements under the ESA. You must be available during the assigned working hours. Factors such as the nature of the work, co-ordination requirements, dealing with deadlines or crises, work standards, etc. determine the autonomy you have in your role. Any flexibility to your hours of work has to be agreed with your Supervisor.
Q What can I do to disconnect from work myself and help others to, too?
Be considerate of your colleagues
- Avoid emailing or calling colleagues outside of their work hours.
- Have ongoing conversations with colleagues to set clear expectations around your work hours and expected response times. This is an opportunity to reframe what it means to be a productive member of a team – you do not have to be always available at all hours.
Speak with your supervisor
- Always connect with your supervisor if you feel something is preventing you from being able to disconnect from work.
Q. I have to deal with Students and clients whose working hours/ time zones are different from ours. How do I disconnect?
Arrange with your supervisor regarding working hours and your responsibilities. It is important that you and your supervisor have a common understanding of the expectation to take time away from work as required and are aware of circumstances where there may be expectations to engage in work-related communications outside the standard work hours.
Q. I like to work when convenient to me and I don’t expect people to respond so why should I worry about sending emails at different hours?
We recognize that the times of day and the days of the week that you will be able to disconnect are likely to vary significantly depending on the nature of the work you do, and terms of your employment contract. We also know that many of you work flexibly when it is convenient for you to work. The ability to disconnect doesn’t mean you can’t send emails when it’s convenient for you to do so, but you shouldn’t expect the recipient to respond to you if it is outside their normal working hours. You might think you're just using the late night quiet to clear out your inbox, but recipients often misjudge how urgently you expect a reply, leading to unnecessary stress. The receivers report feeling more stressed by off-hours work emails than senders expected them to feel, and the stress associated with this unnecessary pressure results in lower subjective well-being.
Some footers on your emails to manage these expectations could be :
- My working day may not look like your working day. Please do not feel compelled to reply to this email outside of your normal working hours.
- "Even though I'm sending this email outside regular work hours, which fits my own work-life schedule best, I don't expect a response outside of your own work hours."
- "Note that you might receive this message outside of my office hours, but that I have no expectation to receive a message outside of your office hours."
Q. I don’t want to respond to emails after hours, but they keep popping up?
To improve productivity and achieve a better work-life balance, employees must be proactive about not checking email after hours. Here are some best practices for employees and managers alike to follow.
Turn off push notifications.
Consider disabling push notifications on your mobile device, which may alert you every time you receive an email, Chat message, instant message, or other forms of communication.
There’s no need to receive an instant alert every time you receive a new email. If you’re worried about missing an important communication, set up your push notifications to inform you of emails or messages only from those on your VIP list. OR agree with your Supervisor that urgent messages will be a phone call or text message .
Boost productivity by closing browser tabs.
When you’re on your tablet or computer after work, avoid leaving your email application open. Close Facebook, Chat and other messaging channels as well.
Although you may be used to multitasking, you could actually be wasting time by having too many windows or tabs open, drawing your focus and causing you to get off track.
Instead, establish a schedule for checking emails. For example, check email and other messages only every two hours while at home, or make a point of signing off at a particular time.
Set screen time limits.
Eliminating screen time is a good way to get a break on the weekends. For instance, you could make a goal of having “unplugged Sundays,” where you avoid looking at any electronics for the entire day. You can also consider checking email only once over the weekend.
Q. I work independently, and my schedule is in the evenings, 1-9 p.m.? My working hours will not impact my colleagues. Can I work staggered hours, from 1-7 then 10-12 (After my kids go to bed)?
Your working hours and the flexibility around your working hours is dependent on your specific work, the service you provide, your clients, and your agreement with your supervisor.
Some of the ways you can manage the convenience is by:
- Use the ‘delayed send or schedule’ feature in Google Mail
- Update your voicemail and set an out-of-office message.
- Include language around work hours in your email signature.
Q. My manager and supervisor are aware of my workload and not being able to take time off. I am continuously working long hours.
Connect with your Supervisor if you feel something is preventing you from being able to disconnect from work and work together to define boundaries and find solutions.
In circumstances where this is not feasible, or the matter cannot be resolved by speaking to your supervisor, you can contact Human Resources, the Director of Academic Relations (for LUFA members only), or a representative from your Union Executive
Q. Can I disconnect from work during office hours, do my personal work, and later contribute to the lost hour?
Disconnecting from work is to empower an employee's performance. Your working hours and the flexibility around your working hours is dependent on your specific work, the service you provide, your clients and your agreement with your supervisor
Q. Can I disconnect from work if there is an emergency at the university?
To deal with a crisis, unforeseen circumstances or emergencies, employees must be present as and when required. The definition of an emergency is explained in 1.2.2 of the policy as below:
Emergency: An urgent and/or critical situation, temporary in nature, that include but is not limited to something that: a) Threatens or causes harm to people, the environment or University property or disrupts critical operations. b) If something unforeseen occurs, to ensure the continued delivery of essential public services, regardless of who delivers those services. c) If something unforeseen occurs, to ensure that continuous processes or seasonal operations are not interrupted. d) To carry out urgent repair work to the employer’s plant or equipment.
Q. Can I take more time off than what is mentioned in my contract?
You don’t have the right to disconnect beyond what is within your employment contract, applicable collective agreement and/or any minimum statutory entitlements under the ESA, which may include rights, exemptions or entitlements speaking to hours of work and hours free from work, overtime pay, meal and/or rest periods, public holidays and public holiday pay, and vacation.
Q. I am struggling to maintain Work life balance. What do I do?
Lakehead University is committed to supporting the holistic health and well-being of our Lakehead community, recognizing that investing in the enhancement of health and wellness interventions will better position us for success. We are committed to advancing the wellbeing of our faculty and staff through the promotion of year-round Wellness initiatives that include physical and psychological health.
is a link that provides you many wellness resources to help you.