Last week, the internet had a typically knee-jerk reaction to news of some freshly passed French legislation that apparently prohibits employees at companies of more than 50 people from sending and receiving email outside of regular hours.
A much broader — and hotly contested — labor reform bill passed through the lower house of French parliament. The bill is not yet a law.
There is one amendment to this bill that includes a measure recommending that companies larger than 50 adopt their own guiding policies on after-hours digital communication. Namely, companies are encouraged to negotiate with their employees specific intervals of time when employees will be expected to disconnect from their work devices.
One company could ban emails from 10pm to 7am. Another may allow digital communication any time during the week but require radio silence on weekends. Yet another could just ignore this new recommendation completely.
So why was there all this coverage about this pretty reasonable sounding bit of French legislation, and why did so many jump to conclusions about it?
Well, we’re not psychologists here, but we’re going to hypothesize that France’s newfound concern with employees’ “right to disconnect” resonates with a lot of American office workers. After all, the typical office working American spends 25-50% of their time reading and writing email, and 40% of us routinely use email outside of work.
And while email, at least for the foreseeable future, remains an indispensable form of communication for most companies, a growing mountain of data suggests email can be an unparalleled source of stress for those who feel unable to disconnect.
Like always, wherever we identify a pain point in the workplace, we can make changes to relieve the discomfort. The brief infatuation with France’s not-quite-email-ban serves as a reminder that even for the proudest of workaholics, routine periods of freedom from your inbox are essential to keeping your mind at ease and your productivity in peak form.
Even if for just a few hours here and there, try incorporating some periods of total disconnection in your weekly schedule. Your loved ones, your coworkers, and most importantly, your brain will thank you.
And seriously, if you’re reading this article on your tablet in the bathroom stall, we appreciate your web traffic, but please just put the device down and come back later.