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Pandemic work-life balance | Portugal makes it illegal for bosses to contact employees after hours

The pandemic has forced many employees and employers to take a deeper look at work-life balance. Here's how Portugal is tackling that issue.

MINNESOTA, USA — One of the positive things to come out of the pandemic has been more talk about work-life balance.

The country of Portugal has really taken that concept to heart, putting new laws in place to make sure that balance is honored.

The Portuguese parliament passed these new laws late last week.

According to the Associated Press, the laws are wide-ranging and offer several new protections for employees.

Some of the highlights include a requirement that companies must compensate employees for work-related expenses at home, such as electricity and internet.

Supervisors will also be required to check in with their remote employees at least once every two months to address the issues of loneliness and isolation.

However, arguably the most unique new law centers around a new requirement that companies should avoid contacting employees after the workday if over.

"They are requiring employers to do a number of things, including to avoid sending communications like emails or texts or phone calls to employees outside of their regular working hours,” U of M professor Alan Benson explains.

The new law does allow for some exceptions where employers would still be allowed to contact their employees after hours, but according to the law, in most cases, companies could be fined.

Professor Benson says these new laws may seem strange and extreme to some Americans, but in some countries, this is completely normal.

"Other countries in the European Union, like France, have gone a step farther and also said that employees have a right to disconnect entirely. So, they can disconnect their mobile devices, their laptops, and their other work equipment when they're not on the clock. Portugal didn't take that step,”

This whole idea centers around working from home.

And the idea that bringing your office into your house often blurs the line between home life and work life.

This balancing act can cause a lot of stress for some workers, and according to Glassdoor.com it's a big reason why people quit their job.

"The number of reviews that mentioned work-life balance and mental health more than doubled over the course of the pandemic and this really goes to show that workers really do care about these issues,” Benson says.

But besides protecting employees, Benson says there's another motive behind these new laws.

"Portugal's big bet is it will be an attractive place for people who can work remotely,” Benson says.

With so many people working from home these days, Benson says we've seen a big trend of people uprooting and moving all around the world.

And Portugal, with favorable taxes, nice weather, beaches and a lower cost of living, is a popular spot for Americans to move to.

So, who knows, maybe these new laws might tip the scales and convince more Americans to move there.


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