'Some leaders don’t like the right to disconnect'

Kelly Davis, chief people officer at Sunwing, to speak on panel at upcoming event

'Some leaders don’t like the right to disconnect'

After the pandemic, people are worn down, says Kelly Davis, chief people officer at Sunwing Travel Group.

“I'm noticing a real trend of people's resiliency is down. And we know why — business doesn't stop, so it just continues over and over.”

However, there has been the silver lining of people being more open around mental health, she says.

“People started to share more during the pandemic; we could see each other [on Zoom], we can see that you have a new puppy or a new grandchild or whatever it might be, because we were doing virtual meetings. And, as a result, I found leaders got actually closer to their team.

“I've never had so many senior people putting up their hands, certainly telling me as their HR partner, but also being open with their teams to say, ‘I'm not doing well.’”

And that all comes back to the importance of disconnecting from work, says Davis, who will be speaking at the upcoming HR Leaders Summit Canada on June 6.

“Because if businesses keep saying, ‘Oh yeah, I hear you, I'm sorry, you're not doing very well. Anyway, I'm going to keep sending you emails at midnight and 11 at night,’ you have to hold hands together to change the culture. It can't just be a policy or something you talk about once every six months.”

Research has shown that people working from home put in anywhere from 13 to 26 per cent more hours, she says.

“I think there was a bit of, I'm almost going to call it, gratitude [from] employees who were able to do that... So ‘I want to make sure I'm really available all the time, because I'm very grateful for that.’”

And that sentiment continues with the hybrid model, as people work both from home and the office.

“We don't want you working yourself to the bone. But employees are so anxious to not be mandated back into the office five days a week that they are willing to keep doing more,” says Davis.

Downtime matters

One of the better ways of approaching the issue is emphasizing the downtime, she says.

“I'm seeing companies putting things at the bottom of their emails, like... ‘My work hours may not be your work hours.’ I like that because unless you work for probably a small company where it's still nine to five, that doesn't exist for a lot of companies.”

Davis — who will be part of a panel looking at “Disconnecting from work: Aligning company policies with current laws on workplace health” — makes a point to tell her team she will send emails at a time that works for her, but that doesn’t mean they have to respond if they’re not working.

“I find that's the big Achilles heel: Leaders are saying, ‘Oh, yes, we care about all these things.’ But then they don't — if [they’re] sending me emails consistently late at night, and you know that that's not my schedule, it is rude. Finding that happy balance and giving people permission to tell you what their schedule is, I think is really, really important.”

Outdated thinking

Unfortunately, there are a lot of outdated leaders who want things to go back to the way they used to now that the pandemic is settling down, she says.

“We trusted people to work for us off site for the last few years — maybe even they had their salaries cut, maybe they even returned after being laid off; they worked very hard. But, all of a sudden, now [it’s] ‘We can't trust them to work off site.’ Why? Is it really a trust issue? Or is it just that you don't like where things have gone?

“Some leaders, they don't like the right to disconnect. And their feeling is ‘I've never had to do that before. I've worked here 20 years’... And that's not the right way to approach this.”

In looking at what other employers are doing in Europe, it’s ground breaking. Instead of talking about Monday to Friday, nine to five, it’s about how people get their job done and what works for them, says Davis.

“You might end up with people that are working schedules you've never seen before. I think that's a great thing, that's a wonderful thing. With all due respect my North American peers… it's more innovative than it was before.”

Register today for the upcoming HR Leaders Summit on June 6.

Latest stories