Saturday, 24 February 2024
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The right to disconnect in the BIG 4: a smokescreen?

The law passed in June 2023 requires employers to issue clear regulations for respecting the right to disconnect. Nevertheless, does the nature of the work and the intense rhythm specific to the BIG 4 really encourage its employees to disconnect?


ALEBA surveyed employees at two of two BIG 4s.


Do employees feel free to disconnect outside working hours?

M: I didn't think so, especially in the Advisor section. In reality, you couldn't really switch off. Even when I was off work due to an accident, I got a call at 8pm asking when I'd be back. You're made to feel that your absence is a problem, you must be available all the time. It's also the trap of being able to manage your time as you please... In the end, everyone's under pressure.

As far as I'm concerned, it's not unusual for me to pull all-nighters to complete a project.

C: It depends on the customer and the company. If the company asks someone to complete a major project, that means there's no disconnect. I feel freer and really disconnected when I'm not working, on my days off. People with staggered working hours work in shifts: if there's a need, they stay... That's the way it is in the world of corporate services...


Does the company provide tools and resources to help employees disconnect?

M: Not at all. I think that once you've been given a work phone, you don't want to disconnect. That way, you're indirectly encouraged to log on, whereas Teams is already quite sufficient for me as an instant means of communication. Everything is done to keep you there as long as possible. There have been some efforts to make the premises more pleasant, but the problem persists: in front of a desk or on a nice sofa in nice premises, it's hard to pick up the phone.

C: As far as the equipment itself is concerned, we have a second screen for greater convenience at home. We also organize webinars and awareness-raising workshops.


Does the company provide training in stress management and mental health?

M: Yes, in the form of an online forum, which you have to... connect to. It's a smokescreen in the Big 4 to reassure future arrivals. The company's image is out of step with reality.

C: We usually have after-work sessions at 5:30 p.m., which means we must switch off at the end of the day. Workshops on well-being are very successful. There are also mental health awareness weeks and various workshops, including some on recognizing the early signs of burnout.


Does the company have a work culture that encourages disconnection? What role do unions play?

M: We don't get any information about unions; I haven't heard anyone say that word in 2 years. We don't even know who to turn to, especially on a subject like disconnection or well-being, because everything is done to give you the impression that everything is fine! While I was off work, I ended up having a meeting with my team because I felt so guilty, and nobody encouraged me to disconnect, least of all my manager. He checked on me 2 or 3 times a week. In a passive way, the corporate culture doesn't encourage people to disconnect.

I recently saw on the networks that my company was promoting the right to disconnect, but that's not the impression given, especially when you're not allowed to leave your laptop at the office. In my opinion, everything has been set up to keep you in the office as long as possible, with lots of after-work parties, the cafeteria opens even in the evening... I find this unhealthy. If everything's on the premises, there's no real reason to go out and get some fresh air. No one would think of joining a union to talk about this, because it's part of the corporate culture.

When I got home, I would log on to teams to show that I was still available for those who were staying later and working harder. It wasn't unusual for me to receive text messages asking where such and such a file was... which somehow forced me to open my computer.

C: Not really. For example, nobody ever asks you if you've taken any time off. But I have noticed that an effort has been made to furnish the premises with decorations according to the seasons. Once, we even had a fake beach! These decorations unconsciously help me to switch off and take a break. I had a great time with my colleagues.

As for the unions, I haven't heard anything about them. But I think the problem is societal... Companies can't afford to hire more staff... so we end up doing the work of three employees. I do everything I can to help my team, but in exchange I expect loyalty... but as I don't feel any recognition, I feel I don't belong in the company, which is why I'm leaving. I have the impression that since the covid period, people have understood that they are not slaves... Unfortunately, there's still this needs to show that you're working, putting in long hours and staying late. That's how you get noticed.


Legislative issues, corporate culture and lack of space for unions


In conclusion to this enlightening interview on the lack of disconnection within the Big 4, it becomes clear that corporate culture plays a major role in maintaining this problem. The constant pressures of tight deadlines and customer demands seem to be ingrained in the DNA of these large firms, compromising employee well-being.

Moreover, the lack of union involvement in these companies plays a significant role in perpetuating this dynamic. Employees often find themselves isolated in the face of inordinate demands, without the support or collective voice that unions could offer.

If you recognize yourself as an employee of the Big 4, don't hesitate to contact us at info@aleba.lu.


ALEBA and its coordinators are here to listen to your concerns, inform you of your rights, and work collectively to improve working conditions within your company.

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