French Labor Reforms Support Right to Disconnect: No work email after work

  • Labor reforms in France encourage disconnection from work
  • A labor reform in France is suggesting to companies to form a policy that bans sending and receiving emails after work
  • The reform received mixed responses – on one hand some are enthusiastic, on the other, some are skeptical if it is enough

Love or hate checking your email on a weekend or during a vacation? The new legislation in France encourages you not to.

As part of its recent labor reforms, France encourages companies to create policies that support the right of the employees to disconnect from the office.

An amendment within a controversial French labor reform bill suggests that companies with a size of 50 employees and more should draft policies to manage the spillover of work, particularly relating to “digital technology” seeping into the personal, private lives of employees. BBC reported that this involves having a policy that specifies the hours when employees cannot send or receive email.

“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly told the BBC.

“Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash— like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails — they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down,” he added.

BBC states that companies are not forced to do this but are encouraged to voluntarily comply to it.

The French government has grown increasingly concerned over burnout related to work.

Earlier this year, Marisol Touraine, a French Health Minister established a working group to define and treat work-related exhaustion.

Based on an article in Les Échos, a French Daily, 1 out of 10 members of the country’s workforce is at a high risk of experiencing a job-related workout.

“The development of information and communication technologies, if badly managed or regulated, can have an impact on the health of workers. 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,” Article 25 of the bill states, according to a New Yorker translation.

The reception for the government’s move is mixed – some applaud it as a step towards victory in the battle over being too connected, while others think that the provision is not enough.

“The right to disconnect isn’t necessarily an obligation … but it’s an opportunity — to claim a little breathing room; to realize that the world won’t stop turning, or even producing words or widgets, without one person’s constant vigilance,” Lauren Collins from The New Yorker, said.

Jon Whittle, a researcher at Digital Brain Switch, a U.K. project looking at the impacts of digital technology on work-life balance, told The Washington Post that some employees may feel even more overwhelmed at the thought of returning, in the morning or post-vacation, to a deluge of emails.

“I think the topic of work-related well-being is much larger than simply stopping email after-hours. Email is just a medium used to communicate. The real problem is the culture of having to constantly do more and constantly do better than competitors,” Jon Whittle, a researcher at the Digital Brain Switch, told The Washington Post.

The Digital Brain Switch is a project in the UK that studies the impacts of digital technology on a work-life balance.