If you’re the kind of worker who checks your work email even when you’re off, France’s Right to Disconnect law might sound alien.
They say you shouldn’t bring the stresses of the office home with you. But in France, they’re taking that old adage to the extreme.
An amendment in a French labor reform bill actually bans companies with 50 employees or more from sending emails after typical work hours, The Huffington Post reported.
The law is designed to reduce the “negative impacts of being excessively plugged in.”
The fear seems to be that workers are too connected these days. In an interview with the BBC, a French official compared it to being a dog on a leash:
The texts, the messages, the emails – they colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.
Some jobs, I’d argue, require a level of “connection” even during non-business hours. Some positions, I’d also argue, including levels of management, require a level of personal attention that transcends the traditional 40-hour workweek. That’s not necessarily the business’s fault or the employee’s fault; it’s simply the nature of the beast.
My job happens to be one of those positions. I do stay connected even when I’m not at work. But, to borrow a favorite phrase from my best friend, “I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.”
Overall, the new legislation is unpopular. But Article 25, known as “The Adaptation of Work Rights to the Digital Era,” wants companies to spell out a policy covering how workers’ personal time will remain personal without the intrusion of work-related matters.
Though I suspect some American workers are putting in more “off the clock” hours than French workers are, I doubt something like this would ever fly here in the States, as appealing as it might sound to some.
If we embrace the tired point of view that all workers are innocent and all businesses are just out to bleed them dry, we have to assume that those “evil” businesses would merely increase their expectations during work hours to make up for the zero expectations they’d have to establish during non-work hours.
So how would you regulate that?
Here in America, I think we do tend to be “too connected.”
I’m not sure, however, that our problem is that we’re too connected to work. I think, instead, we’re just too connected to being connected. It’s strange to see people actually have a conversation these days without at least one of them pulling out a phone to check an email or take a call.
There was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago, when emails and calls would wait. It was a time when the present company was more important.
Even if American businesses were
forced encouraged to prompt their workers to unplug when they weren’t at the office, it still wouldn’t make those workers unplug entirely.