How Will The ‘Right To Disconnect’ Bill Help Women In The Workplace?

Time to turn off your phone.

The ‘right to disconnect‘ bill has been passed by the senate, giving Australian workers to right to refuse contact with their employer outside of their working hours.

This means that employers won’t be able to penalise their employees for not answering work phone calls, texts, emails or teams messages when they’re off the clock.

While this will hopefully provide a greater work life balance for all Australian workers, the bill is likely to help female workers the most.

The right to disconnect women
(Credit: Getty )

Recent research from career development organisation, Women Rising, revealed that many women struggle with setting boundaries at work.

Of the 1,200 women surveyed by the organisation, 42% believed they struggled with setting boundaries, and almost a third (31%) believed that trying to balance parenting and their job was the greatest contributor to their stress levels at work.

CEO and founder of Women Rising, Megan Dalla-Camina believes the bill will empower more women to set firmer boundaries between work and home.

“It’s clear from these statistics that many women need support with saying ‘no’ and advocating for themselves,” Megan explains.

“Very often, saying no is just the first step. Even for women who feel comfortable saying no and setting boundaries, the discomfort usually arises when someone pushes back on that ‘no’ or disrespects that boundary.”

The fact that women still bear the bear the brunt of caring responsibilities in Australia makes it even more difficult for these boundaries to be put in place.

It’s not unusual for women to catch up on emails after their children have gone to bed if their child rearing responsibilities have made them feel behind in the day.

“Amy Westervelt summed it up best when she said, ‘we expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work,’ Megan says.

right to disconnect women
(Credit: Getty)

Similarly, working from home doesn’t always benefit women in the way we expect it to.

The greater flexibility can often be a double edged sword where being able to work from anywhere really means working everywhere.

If your work doesn’t belong to the office, and rather, to your home and wherever you may be, then it doesn’t seem so unreasonable for employers to contact their staff when they’re not at the office—even if it’s at a time outside of your usual working hours.

Megan believes that women are more likely to want to please their employers than men.

“This can lead women to take on too many responsibilities, and struggle to set effective boundaries,” Megan says.

In fact, according to Women Rising’s research, being a people pleaser is the second largest obstacle to women’s career progression.

“People pleasing behaviours also lead to higher rates of burnout for women,” Megan explains.

“The impact of burnout and blurred work life boundaries is serious. In the past 18 months, 50% of women have considered changing careers, and a third (34%) have thought about reducing their hours or taking a less demanding job. Shockingly, 21% of women have considered leaving the workforce altogether.”

If your location doesn’t dictate when you’re on the clock then it’s critical that your hours do—which is where the ‘right to disconnect’ bill will help.

How Can I Set Clear Boundaries At Work?

Sometimes, setting boundaries is easier said than done—especially when your boss doesn’t respond well to them.

However, Megan encourages women not to give up these boundaries, and believes they aren’t only important for your mental health but your career as well.

“Setting clear boundaries and cultivating a positive relationship with your boss is a powerful way for women to have more agency in their careers, and work towards better work-life-balance,” Megan says.

“Dealing with a manager who constantly ignores your boundaries can be challenging. However, rather than slipping into conflict avoidant or people-pleasing behaviours, it’s crucial to advocate for yourself and establish a healthy working relationship.”

Megan’s Top Tips For Setting Boundaries With Your Boss

1. Set your priorities

“Before engaging in a conversation with your manager, take the time to think about what it is you need out of your boundary-setting conversation, and why. By clearly identifying your priorities, you’ll have a solid foundation to support your pushback.

“When speaking with your boss or manager, try to use “I” statements as much as possible.

“For example, say, ‘I feel overwhelmed with my current workload, and taking on additional tasks would compromise the quality of my work,’ rather than placing blame or accusing your manager of overloading you.

“This will allow you to get your message across, without sounding accusatory or confrontational.”

2. Choose the right setting and communication style:

“When approaching your boss about setting personal boundaries, it’s important to set a one-on-one meeting in the communication style that works for them.

“Do they prefer a phone call, video conference or a face-to-face meeting?

“A private setting shows respect and allows for focused conversation without distractions and encourages a more empathetic response.”

3. Seek support from colleagues (if needed):

“If multiple team members are facing similar challenges, consider discussing the issue collectively with your boss or manager.

“Presenting a united front can reinforce the importance of your concerns and demonstrate that the workload issue is not isolated to one individual.

“Strength in numbers can lead to a more impactful conversation.”

4. Offer alternatives and solutions:

“In these discussions, it’s important to not just say ‘no’: Propose alternative solutions like delegating tasks, adjusting deadlines, or seeking additional support.

“This shows your willingness to find a mutually beneficial compromise.

“It’s also worth explaining how additional work might affect other projects, deadlines, or team dynamics. Emphasise the bigger picture.”

5. Escalate strategically:

“If your manager remains dismissive after your conversation/s, consider involving HR, a senior colleague, or an internal conflict resolution channel.

“Be mindful of the potential consequences and use these options as a last resort.

“But if your wellbeing and mental health is being challenged because of your unmanageable workload or insistent boss, then you absolutely must prioritise your own wellbeing and seek the support you need.”

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