THANKS FOR YOUR MES­SAGE

Friday - - Editor’s Letter - Natalie Long, ed­i­tor Reach me at nlong@gulfnews.com

The French have a very proac­tive ap­proach to work-life bal­ance. It’s ac­tu­ally been en­shrined in law, in sev­eral ways. There’s the 35-hour work week; there are lun­cheon vouch­ers if your com­pany doesn’t have a can­teen; and there are sub­sidised camp­sites – with hot show­ers and wash­ing ma­chines – in which to spend your weeks and weeks of hol­i­day time.

The lat­est law is that your boss can­not force you to fol­low up on your emails out­side of work­ing hours. (While that sounds very thought­ful of the French gov­ern­ment, it was in fact in­tro­duced at the start of the year to sweeten a pack­age of laws that ac­tu­ally make it eas­ier for em­ploy­ers to fire staff.)

While it won’t ac­tu­ally pun­ish com­pa­nies that don’t com­ply, the right-to-dis­con­nect rule means that com­pa­nies have to ne­go­ti­ate a plan with staff to en­sure a buzzing phone doesn’t in­ter­rupt the evening’s boeuf bour­guignon.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing in the same way French haute cou­ture is: It’s so beau­ti­ful to look at, but is it some­thing we can in­cor­po­rate into our lives? Do we even want to be dis­con­nected, in an age when so many peo­ple are find­ing ful­fil­ment in sec­ond jobs – of­ten pas­sion projects?

The con­cept of over­time is be­com­ing a lit­tle alien for some. Then again, we can’t judge peo­ple by how con­nected (or dis­con­nected) they are. You’re not a bet­ter per­son, or worker, be­cause you are per­ma­nently re­spond­ing to emails; a lot of those week­end emails, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, may well be down to dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion. And no one wants to spend time with that per­son who is al­ways check­ing their phone.

I like that some­one has started the con­ver­sa­tion; where it goes will be some­thing to watch (some Ger­man com­pa­nies, too, have strict rules, in­clud­ing, amaz­ingly, an auto-delete func­tion on emails sent to staff on hol­i­days).

Read more on this is­sue that af­fects so many of us in our fea­ture on page 26.

We’d also like to hear from you about whether after-hours email mes­sag­ing both­ers you, how you deal with it, and if you don’t mind it. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to my crois­sant.

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