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France Is Trying To Switch Off After-hours Email

Posted February 27, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: email france information overload

On January 1st of this year, France passed a much publicized “right to disconnect” law. It requires firms with more than 50 employees to negotiate fair after-hours and vacation communication. While France’s recent labor laws were heavily protested, supporters say the right to disconnect rule will lead to a more engaged, less burnt-out workforce as a result of better work-life balance.

This legislation doesn’t seem out of place, both in France and the whole of Europe. The former has a (nominal, rarely actual) 35-hour legal work week; any hours over this amount are technically overtime. (France’s recent package of controversial labor laws, including those making it easier for companies to hire and fire employees and giving companies the right to negotiate longer hours and cheaper overtime, were largely proposed to combat the negative effects of the shorter week.) A 2014 German law prohibits managers from calling or emailing outside of work hours, except in “emergency” situations, although this one clearly allows for major wiggle room. German companies Volkswagen and Daimler both limit emailing after hours: the former blocks its employees’ Blackberries, and the latter offers a service that deletes or redirects employee emails sent while on vacation.

It might be surprising to learn that French employers are more receptive than their employees to the latest law. Some consider it a narrow policy that actually limits flexibility, as some parents may want to leave the office to spend some after-school time with their kids and finish up their work day at night. Many businesses have had a global presence for years now, and forcing them to shut down during another country’s operating hours will cost them business overseas. Other critics point out that forcing an after-hours email shutdown will hurt innovation, citing that a major part of innovating is capturing spontaneous creative thinking that could occur at any time.

While it’s nice to see governments and individual companies taking steps to avoid workforce burnout—including investigating the six-hour workday and results-only work environments—there are bound to be tradeoffs. France has been struggling with a record-high 11% unemployment rate, causing many to call out their working laws as unsustainable. And obviously these changes are much more applicable to white-collar office work; companies relying on shift work are rarely able to cut their work days or weeks short without significant productivity losses. In the US, work-life balance unfortunately comes down to the corporate and often individual level, and managers who realize the full impact of after-hours communication will likely have happier and more productive direct reports.

Image credit: Jason Rogers / CC BY 2.0

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#1

Re: France Is Trying To Switch Off After-hours Email

02/27/2017 8:25 AM

France already has a 35 hour work week,... even though President Francois Hollande and the Socialist Party are trying to change the country's labor laws.

And if this country had a 30 hour work week,... then the employment figures would hold a little more substance.

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#2

Re: France Is Trying To Switch Off After-hours Email

02/27/2017 4:30 PM

I would be curious to see what would be accomplished in some workplaces with a 6 hour workday given I have worked in a few places where the shift change handover plus damn near daily safety meetings sucked up near two hours of every shift to begin and end with. (12 hours on the clock but maybe got in 6 -7 of actually focused relevant productive work for it. )

Fred cut his finger yesterday while opening his daily safety paperwork packet so lets all stand around and talk about safety meeting safety issues and what we can do to prevent them (other than just not have the damn meetings to begin with) for the next two hours.

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Re: France Is Trying To Switch Off After-hours Email

02/28/2017 11:04 PM

I once worked at a company that had a 1 hour safety meeting every morning. After I worked there for about a month, I figured out why they had a safety meeting every morning. Seems there was quite a few muck ups there, people were always coming in monday am after getting sloshed on the weekend then falling down on the j.o.b. . They used some pretty knarly chemicals there. About a month after I blew that popsicle stand, an undetermined fire burned the place to the ground.

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Re: France Is Trying To Switch Off After-hours Email

03/01/2017 1:00 AM

Happens everywhere. I wonder if people actually think that social relationships at work are better than achieving actual work, but I just do not see companies with any non-profitable business employing people "for fun".

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#5

Re: France Is Trying To Switch Off After-hours Email

03/01/2017 4:56 AM

Having watched several managers get burnt out, one ended up dead another medically retired and the current one is on medication for the stress, by their academic masters contacting them at all hours of the day and night 24/365, to make unwitnessed often unreasonable and occasionally illegal demands by telephone, rather than by e-mail which leaves an evidential trail there's a lot to be said for formal protection from that kind of harassment.

The problem won't go away, they'll still call as they feel they are 'entitled', but laying ground rules will help those being harassed get some control of their 'private' life back.

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#6

Re: France Is Trying To Switch Off After-hours Email

03/01/2017 5:08 PM

A right to disconnect - could use that at home. My Wife is on call 24 / 7. The calls at the AM shift change on weekends are especially annoying. And it is not just incidents and medical emergencies - if anyone in nursing must stay a few minutes of overtime, she gets a call for her to approve it. They even have her monitoring the facilities "call bells". (nursing home) If a call bell is not answered in 3 minutes, she gets a text that she has to read, and, yes, the facility director does check her on this to be sure she is seeing these texts. Job burn-out is expected in the personal care industry - the government and regulations pretty much require it.

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