The “always-on” work culture is becoming more prominent with constant advancements in mobile technology. More and more employees are reading and replying to emails outside of their working hours, which is in-turn leading to a rise in work-related stress and jeopardizing the work-life balance.
However, employees living and working in France now have the legal right to ignore any email they receive out-of-hours. The law came into force on 1st January 2017, allowing companies with over 50 employees to begin drafting policies regarding out-of-hours work.
The aim of the law is to help combat work-related stress and to give French workers the “right to disconnect” from their emails in the evenings and on weekends. Many studies have found that the “always-on” work culture has led to a rise in psychological and emotional distress, such as this one conducted by Virginia Tech and Colorado State University.
“What we find is that people who feel they have to respond to emails on their off hours become emotionally exhausted, partially because they can’t detach from work,” said researcher Samantha Conroy. “They are not able to separate from work when they go home, which is when they are supposed to be recovering their resources.”
There has been some backlash against this new legislation however, with many arguing that French companies will fall behind competitors in other countries where such laws are not in place. “In my company we compete with Indian, Chinese, American developers. We need to talk to people around the world late into the night. Our competitors don’t have the same restrictions,” remarked software writer Gregory to the BBC. “If we obeyed this law we would just be shooting ourselves in the foot.”
So far, there are no repercussions if a company does not comply with this law as it is voluntary and up to the individual company to negotiate with their employees when they can ignore their emails. For a world that is so dependent on technology for modern business, it is essential employees find the time to switch off and relax, and the passing of laws such as this will help to achieve that.