Professor Anna Cox, a computing and work-life balance expert at University College London, says that deterioration in work-life balance is mostly down to pressure and insecurity created by employers’ use of tracking software. “It’s left employees feeling like they’re being watched every minute,” she says. “They feel like there is an expectation to always be on call. It has such an impact on workers, particularly those who are not high-status managers.”
The loss of a clear work-life boundary has profound implications, particularly for women, who bear the brunt of childcare and domestic chores. Campaigners point to research showing rising levels of anxiety, depression, interrupted sleep patterns and burnout among the remote workforce, all of which they argue is partly a result of checking emails, keeping devices on and answering messages after hours. They say that employment law needs to catch up with the changed realities.
“All too often we see management by fear,” says Esther Lynch, the deputy general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which represents 45 million workers across 38 European countries. “There needs to be a clear obligation on employers to ensure the right to disconnect for their employees.”