France's "Right To Disconnect" Amendment Bans After-Hours Work Emails & It's A Policy The Rest Of The World Might Want To Consider
In many ways, technology has made our jobs easier, but it's also made our jobs a lot more intrusive — something France is now trying to correct. According to the "right to disconnect" amendment, sending work emails on weekends is now illegal in the country. And although it might sound extreme, it might also ultimately be a good thing, for both employees and for companies — and something other places (like the United States — nudge, nudge) might want to consider enacting as well.
So how does all this work? As part of a contested new labor reform bill, French lawmakers have passed a provision that makes it illegal for companies with more than 50 employees to send work emails outside of normal business hours. That means no holidays, no weekends, and no late nights. Companies are also required to negotiate with employees to determine policies to best prevent work from spilling over outside the office. So the days of checking your work email from home are pretty much done, at least if you live in France. There won't be any work emails to read.
"The development of information and communication technologies, if badly managed or regulated, can have an impact on the health of workers,” the new law states. “Among them, the burden of work and the informational overburden, the blurring of the borders between private life and professional life, are risks associated with the usage of digital technology.”
And it's a problem many employees are all too familiar with. We're living in a society where just about anybody is theoretically accessible at any point from anywhere — and if you are "unplugged," it's likely a conscious decision (or a sign you're living in a fictional world). This means that for many people, work follows us everywhere, and there's no way to stop it. It's not, of course, the healthiest thing, psychologically speaking.
While on the surface this sort of law might seem to fundamentally undermine the effectiveness of a modern workplace, where contacting employees the minute an issue arises can be part of the office modus operandi, in actuality it might make things more effective. It's a little bit like how a six-hour workweek winds up increasing productivity — sometimes easing up on employees and on the pressure in the workplace is the best way to get results.
And it's not inconceivable that this sort of policy might have similar results. After all, studies have shown that just getting notifications from work emails on your phone increases stress, and that being constantly connected can be bad for both your health and your career. And unhappy, unhealthy employees are not good employees.
Plus, you know, policies that make people happier and healthier are kind of good government priorities, anyways.
Depending on how this law works out in France, the United States might seriously want to consider adopting it. Over 40 percent of American workers say they feel obligated to check work emails during vacation; 50 percent check email in bed; 87 percent check emails outside normal business hours. This, of course, despite all the downsides to worker health and wellbeing.
So yeah, I wouldn't mind having that kind of law here at all.