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Belgium's right to disconnect - Dr. Axe

Early in 2022, the Belgium government passed a law that granted federal workers the right to disconnect. The law allows thousands of federal civil servants in Belgium to fully enjoy their time off without having to check in on emails or answer phone calls.

Studies in recent years have shown that employee burnout is on the rise and has worsened due to or during the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual Women in the Workplace report found that in 2021, 42 percent of women and 35 percent of men reported symptoms of burnout, such as overwhelm and fatigue, mostly in regard to work-life balance.

Having the right to disconnect from work is essential for working adults to find a healthy balance between work life and home life, so this new law passed in Belgium is a major step in the right direction for federal workers.

Law on Belgium’s Right to Disconnect

Beginning on Feb. 1, federal civil servants in Belgium will no longer be expected to answer emails, phone calls or texts after working hours. The new “right to disconnect” law allows employees to enjoy their time off without fear of being disadvantaged when they don’t work after normal hours.

In a circular released by Belgium Minister of Civil Service Petra De Sutter, it’s noted that federal workers can’t be contacted outside of working hours unless there are “exceptional and unforeseen circumstances” requiring an immediate reaction.

The law, according to De Sutter, is to combat “excessive work stress and burn-out” and will allow federal civil servants to recuperate on their time off. She added that the “employee’s family, rest and holiday have to be respected.”

Benefits of Disconnecting

Being given the right to disconnect from work after hours is essential for creating a healthy work-life balance and getting the downtime you need to foster relationships, get enough rest and retain focus. There are several benefits of disconnecting, including the following:

  • Reduces work-related anxiety
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Boosts energy and focus
  • Improves sleep
  • Supports relationships
  • Allows for more time with loved ones
  • Promotes motivation

How to Disconnect

1. Step Away From Your Phone

Your cell phone is what keeps you connected to work after hours, so to truly disconnect, you need to set it aside for a bit.

Try setting certain times of the day to check your phone. Maybe that means one to two 10-minute catch-up sessions throughout the day.

During the times in between, try setting your phone aside so you can engage with loved ones, get some fresh air, or truly relax and unwind during your time off.

2. Make Plans

Using your time off to make plans with family and friends is an excellent opportunity to foster meaningful relationships while disconnecting from work. Make plans to spend a weekend away, go on a short road trip or visit friends in another state.

Even lunch or dinner plans will allow you to engage with people outside of work and connect with those you typically don’t see on weekdays.

3. Get Outdoors

If you spend most of your workday in an office or at home, with a screen in your face or a phone on your ear, getting outdoors during your time off is a great way to disconnect. Go hiking, go for a walk on the beach or at the park, take a family walk or bike ride, go for a swim, or do yoga in your backyard.

We know that there are many benefits of being outdoors, including boosting vitamin D production, improving mood and easing anxiety.

4. Exercise

Using your downtime to get in some physical activity is good for your body and mind. A recent report by the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that adding a half hour or more of exercise daily can reduce the risk of premature death and just 10 minutes of exercise a day can help adults live longer.

Exercising after work hours or on the weekends is a great way to improve your overall health and boost energy, focus and motivation.

Conclusion

  • A new law passed in Belgium that gives federal civil servants the right to disconnect, meaning they are no longer expected to answer emails, phone calls or texts after working hours.
  • The law allows employees to enjoy their time off without fear of being disadvantaged when they don’t work after normal hours.
  • Based on the rising levels of working adults who are feeling burnt out and unhappy with their work-life balance, the ability to disconnect is a major step in the right direction.

Source: Dr. Axe

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