Work-life balance in the digital age
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128 No 3, 5 May 2023, page no. 11
The new certified agreement contains a suite of measures to address the impact of technology on work-life balance and the wellbeing of teachers and school leaders, including new digital technologies clauses that resulted from our member campaigning on the right to disconnect.
The campaign addressed member concerns that teachers and school leaders, regardless of role, are working long hours and feeling pressured to be constantly available for work-related communication outside of their normal working hours. This view was supported by the results of the QTU’s 2018 Teacher Workload Survey, which found that more than 50 per cent of respondents enjoyed a positive workload impact from reducing digital communication.
Under the new clauses at 9.5 of the certified agreement, teachers and school leaders are not required to respond to work-related emails, phone calls, or other communications outside of their designated work hours, unless there is an urgent or exceptional circumstance (eg school closure due to flooding). This is intended to help address the issue of “digital presenteeism,” where teachers and school leaders feel compelled to constantly check and respond to work-related communications, even outside of their normal working hours.
The right to disconnect is not a ban on work-related communication outside of normal working hours, nor is it intended to prevent teachers from working outside of their normal hours if they choose to do so. It does not prevent teachers and school leaders from responding to urgent or time-sensitive communication outside of their normal working hours, provided there is genuine urgency.
The clauses are underpinned by a recognition of professional autonomy. They establish clear boundaries around teachers’ and school leaders’ working hours and they remove the expectation that teachers and school leaders are always on call.
The new clauses specifically address the psychosocial risk associated with the blurring of work and personal time. By giving teachers the right to switch off from work-related communication outside of their normal working hours, the clauses promote work-life balance and support the wellbeing of teachers.
The clauses also align with the new Queensland Government Psychosocial Framework, which aims to promote the psychological and social wellbeing of workers and address psychosocial risks in the workplace.
By giving teachers and school leaders the right to disconnect from work-related communication outside of their normal working hours, schools can help to promote a more positive and sustainable work environment that benefits teachers, school leaders and students.
Overall, the right to disconnect clause for Queensland teachers reflects a growing recognition of the importance of work-life balance and the need to protect the wellbeing of workers in the digital age.