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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Portugal’s law on bosses contacting employees after office hours ignores the blurred lines between work, life post Covid

The new law is meant to ensure a healthier work-life balance by disallowing supervisors from contacting employees after “work hours”. It aims to make Portugal an attractive destination for “digital nomads".

By: Editorial |
Updated: November 13, 2021 10:03:46 am
The new law is meant to ensure a healthier work-life balance by disallowing supervisors from contacting employees after “work hours”.

Spare a thought for your good ole boss. After all, no less a rebel than Bob Dylan said, “everybody’s gotta serve somebody”. It’s not like supervisors don’t have people to report to, and targets of their own to meet. When they call, text, mail after hours, it is likely not for the pleasure of conversing. And, given the blurring of lines between office and home, the work-day and personal time, after the pandemic struck, it is that much more difficult to know when “office hours” end. It is the complexity of this “new normal” that the well-meaning law passed by Portugal’s socialist government seems not to comprehend.

The new law is meant to ensure a healthier work-life balance by disallowing supervisors from contacting employees after “work hours”. It aims to make Portugal an attractive destination for “digital nomads”: If you have to work-from-home, why not do it from Portugal, where labour laws favour you?

The problem with trying to provide such benefits to “digital nomads” is that they do not really function in a traditional 9-5 setup. A coder for an Indian company living in Lisbon may well want working hours that are very different from “office hours” in both countries. In fact, one of the few advantages for many people working from home during the pandemic has been the flexibility it affords: Make a meal, spend time with the kids, and work around a schedule you set for yourself. Digital nomads move temporally, not just spatially. With all this flexibility and freedom, the notion of “work hours” all but disappears. And, if you can work any time, so can your boss.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on November 13, 2021 under the title ‘Work & play’.

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