THANKS FOR YOUR MESSAGE
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.