Seoul considers messaging ban
Fri 28 Oct 2016
The city legislature of Seoul, South Korea, is considering implementing a law that would ban after work messaging to employees, in an effort to reduce work-related stress among employees.
Members of the Seoul Metropolitan Council proposed a revision to a public ordinance that would ban after-work messaging to employees of the city’s government. The new rule is an attempt to guarantee employees the right to rest and states that employee privacy must not be subject to employer contact outside of work hours. If passed, it would ban managers from contacting public sector employees after work hours through phone calls, text messaging, or social networking.
Kim Kwang-soo, one of the councilors who submitted the ordinance revision, said that the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) must guarantee the rights of city workers by protecting them from undue stress. He said, “Of course SMG officials must always be prepared for the needs of citizens, but many of them are working under conditions that infringe on their right to rest.”
A revision of the Korea Labor Standards Act was proposed in June, which would offer protection for private sector employees as well. Representative Shin Kyung-min of the Democratic Party of Korea, who submitted the proposal, argued that allowing workers to rest after hours would benefit not only the workers themselves but also their employers, by increasing at-work productivity.
A study at Colorado State University found that the anticipatory stress caused by an employer’s expectation of work contact outside of work hours negatively impacted employee mental health, contributing to increased stress levels, burnout, and an imbalance in work-family life.
Samantha A. Conroy, assistant professor of management at CSU, said, “What we find is that people who feel they have to respond to emails on their off hours become emotionally exhausted, partially because they can’t detach from work.”
“They are not able to separate from work when they go home, which is when they are supposed to be recovering their resources.”
Employers may also be unaware that in certain cases, employees could be eligible for additional compensation for contact made outside of normal work hours. Under the US Fair Labor Standards Act, hourly employees may seek overtime payment for time spent responding to emails or answering work calls outside of normal working hours.