As of January 1 of this year, a new law went into effect in France giving French workers the right to ignore business emails that arrive after hours. According to the French Ministry of Labor, the ‘right to disconnect’ law is “designed to ensure respect for rest periods and…balance between work and family and personal life.” The rule requires companies with 50 or more employees to negotiate new out-of-office email guidelines with staff. Firms now have a duty to regulate the use of emails to ensure employees get a break from the office.
With the proliferation of electronic communications and smartphones, we are constantly attached to our jobs. French legislator Benoit Hamond described to the BBC the law as “an answer to the travails of employees who leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash — like a dog.”
Work is no longer a place you go to but a state of mind. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Bain & Company reported findings of recently examined e-communications and other forms of collaboration at two dozen large global companies. They found that:
- Senior executives now receive 200 (or more) emails per day.
- The average frontline supervisor devotes about eight hours each week — a full business day — to sending, reading and answering e-communications.
- The level of e-communication has grown every year since 2008 (the year we started examining this data), and much of it now creeps into off-hours and weekends.
My clients are always overwhelmed by the constant flow of emails and the need to stay on top of communications. Fear of ignoring emails for a period of time and then having to catch up for hours or (worst) missing something important keeps them constantly connected to their inboxes. I know that they would all welcome the chance to receive less emails in 2017.
I am interested to see what effect the right to disconnect law will have on French employees and business results. While some experts are praising the initiative and believe that it will ensure better work-life balance, others claim that it will simply shift the way the French work off-hours, but will not ultimately solve the problem.
Would you welcome a law that banned email after hours? Email me and let me know what you think. Happy New Year!