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No work-related emails during weekends in France – it’s illegal!

27th May 2016
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It’s Friday and time to look forward to a relaxing weekend, away from the rat-race and targets mounting in the office. But how many of us are truly switched off from work over the weekend-fully immersed in “me time”? Not many have the luxury of answering that in the affirmative. Well, now in France, employees have been granted “the right to disconnect,” and sending work-related e-mails by employers has been declared against the law.

Representational Image, Source - Nunomad
Representational Image, Source – Nunomad

According to The Huffington Post, “The right to disconnect” amendment, as it’s so called, is aimed at minimizing the negative impacts of being excessively plugged in. “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 BBC earlier this month. “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 colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

Work-related burnout appears to be a growing concern for the French government. In February, French Health Minister Marisol Touraine formed a working group in an effort to define and treat work-related exhaustion. According to an April article in the French daily Les Échos, about 1 in 10 of the nation’s workforce is at a high risk of job-related burnout.

Under the new law, companies are mandated to negotiate formal policies to limit the spillover of work, specifically as it’s related to “digital technology,” into the private lives of employees. This, according to the BBC, will involve companies establishing “charters of good conduct” specifying hours, typically in the evenings and weekends, when employees aren’t supposed to send or receive email.

“The development of information and communication technologies, if badly managed or regulated, can have an impact on the health of workers,” Article 25 of the bill reads. “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.” Some have lauded this clause as a win in the battle against over-connectedness. And to think that India still runs on a six-day week! How many want to move to France?

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