French workers are now entitled to “disconnect” from work while at home to decrease the chances of employees suffering burnout.
As of 1st January, French workers employed by companies with 50 or more employees can negotiate when they have the right to digitally disconnect, and will not be required to answer emails, messages, phone calls or any other work related digital communication.
The measure is part of a new set of labour laws introduced last May by Labour Minister, Myriam El Khomri, following a report in 2015 which warned of the dangers of “info-obesity” on people’s health, according to the Irish Times.
Speaking to the BBC in May 2016, French MP, Benoit Hamon said: “All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that stress is constant. Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash – like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails – they colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”
The increased reliance on smartphones can easily be linked to this crossover between the professional and the private spheres, and this “always-on” work culture as it’s called in The Guardian “…carries a risk of stress, burnout, sleep problems and relationship difficulties,” according to the BBC.
Linh Le, a partner at Elia management consultants in Paris, defines burnout as “physical, psychological and emotional distress caused by a total inability to rest,” an issue 12 percent of the workforce are at risk of suffering from according to professional risk expert, Technologia, in an editorial for Libération last week.
Although the introduction of this law is “a world first”, companies in Europe and America have taken steps to help prevent burnout by introducing programmes and incentives to aide their employees rest. A Huffington Post piece describes how an American health insurer, Aetna, introduced a reward system for employees who slept for seven hours a night, giving them the chance to earn an extra $300 per year.
Despite this new law allowing more time for employees to switch off and disengage from their work, it also presents the potential to cause unrest with many companies having offices and dealing with other businesses in different time zones across the globe.
Sales manager at Paris based online marketplace, PriceMinister, Tiphanie Schmitt, thinks the idea is good but having the government involved in her job is something she sees as a hindrance.
“I do sales. I like doing sales. It means I use email late into the evening, and at the weekend. I don’t want my company preventing me from using my mail box just because of some law,” Hugh Schofield of the BBC reports her saying.
Of course work-life balance is at the centre of all this discussion as it is an aspect of life that is crucial for everyone to have a good understanding of in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In a blog post about Steve Jobs’ official biography, Forbes contributor, Rob Enderle, wrote: “[Richard] Branson is able to run a large number of companies and still have time for flights of fancy like Virgin Galactic, philanthropic activities, and he has a major project on alternative fuels all while still spending quality time with family. Steve [Jobs], in the biography, seems to regret not spending more time with his kids and I believe, had he been able to focus more on his health, he’d still be with us today.”
DTS keynote speaker, Gary Vaynerchuk, is often questioned about how he puts family first when he works 19 hours a day. In a video on his YouTube channel, he admits that he does struggle with his work-life balance and as such doesn’t like giving advice about it. But, he states, “Monday to Friday, I’m gone. Saturday and Sunday, I’m all in, not even on the phone. And we’ve started taking six, seven weeks of vacation which is up from two.”
With many in the tech world so engrossed in their jobs either due to their passion for what they’re working on or the incredibly strenuous efforts required of them by their workers, if two of the modern world’s most successful, and busy, individuals can find time for family and relaxation, then it is something everyone is capable of doing.