Monday, November 08, 2021

Sabbath & The Right to Disconnect


                                                                          from the Toronto Star

 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Exodus 20:8-11

On the weekend I listened to a CBC Radio Fresh Air interview with Bianca Boyd, Chief Operations Officer for Edelman Advertising, explains why her company has a policy against contacting employees after hours. The segment was related to the proposed "right to disconnect" legislation in Ontario which would prohibit companies with a threshold number of employees from requiring workers to essentially work when they weren't officially on the clock. Edelman Adverstising instituted this policy in 2013 and even though they are in a high pressure industry with deadlines it has been successful. Boyd offered that the disconnect for employees, including herself, allowed them to be just as productive while reducing burnout. 

As it turned out, we were meeting our younger daughter and her partner after the church service yesterday, and they both work for companies which are good employers but often have expectations to work beyond the parameters of a regular work day. We camped with them this past summer on an island to which we paddled in canoes. Both spent time addressing situations at work through their "smart" phones which so many of us have come to realize are stupid and demanding connection devices which we simply can't live withouit anymore, or so we think.

For the past three thousand years people of the Judeo/Christian tradtion have been aware of the divine mandate to "cease and desist" not as a suggestion but a commandment. The notion is that God disconnected to savour the excellent work of Creation, so as part of that creation we should as well.

Attending worship on a Sunday, or Saturday, or Friday, depending on tradition, may seem quaint or achaic, but isn't it the original "right to disconnect"? When we go to church we have that period of time that is God-focussed and labour-free. Ya, ya, I know I'm retired, but surely those who lead far more hectic lives need an oasis of tranquility and reflection. We'll see if anything comes of this legislation, and in the meantime we can hope for more forward-thinking companies such as Edelman. Everyone needs a sabbath. 


FrankH said...

There is a fantastic book published back in 2010 dealing with this very issue. Entitled "Hamlet's Blackberry: building a good life in the digital age" and written by William Powers, it explores the need to disconnect by establishing a "digital sabbath" and the opportunity to recharge regularly.
Another earlier work by Neil Postman, "Amusing Ourselves to Death:Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" reflects on the same kind of thing, but focuses on television being the prime disrupter of focused attention.
In either case, the benefits of a regular, scheduled digital break from the relentlessly incoming deluge of "stuff" is needed to keep ourselves sane.

David Mundy said...

Hamlet's Blackberry sounds as though it was prescient, Frank, even though Blackberrys may now be relics of the digital past. Postmans's book was excellent & I had a copy until the Great Book Purge which came with retirement. He speaks of the "now this" segue of TV news which takes us from the tragic to the inane without any time for serious reflection. Your comments caused me to think of Bill McKibben's The Age of Missing information which also addresses the flood of information without much time to ponder what it means. He contrasted a day's worth of wathcing TV (all 93 channels) with a sabbath day on a mountaintop in the Appalachians. Thanks!