Many employers increasingly expect their workers to respond to work email after hours or even on vacation. In France, however, a new law mandates that companies establish a policy outlining their expectations for workers to respond to messages during non-office hours. It has been referred to as “the right to disconnect.”
The law went into effect on 1 January. Its purpose is to lessen workplace burnout and stress, and to ensure employees are paid for actual hours worked. France has a strict 35-hour work week, and those who work overtime hours must be paid more. The new ruling applies only to companies with 50 or more employees.
Beyond work trickling into people’s personal lives, a recent study from Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, found that just thinking about having to respond to email makes people “emotionally exhausted,” according to an article in Time. It’s a form of anticipatory stress.
Several French companies have taken the ruling a step further by prohibiting employees from using their work laptops and mobile devices after hours. Other employers completely shut down their email systems each weeknight. Some managers even include a message in their signature line: “If you receive this mail outside of your working hours, you are not obliged to respond.”
Companies outside of France have been experimenting with such policies as well. Vynamic, a health care consulting startup in Philadelphia, discourages email use from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.
The concept could be more difficult for global companies to implement, however, because they operate across multiple time zones.
Some employees are concerned that such policies could actually interfere with their work-life balance, such as the ability for them to leave the office early to pick up their children and then make up the time by working in the evening.
Do you want the right to disconnect? How would you feel about a policy that regulated when you respond to work email?