French Workers Have a Legal ‘Right to Disconnect’ After Work Hours


France has now enforced a law that allows workers to ignore or avoid emails after work hours, news reports say. Dubbed the "right to disconnect" law, the legislation is meant to address the current French work culture - that sees workers checking their emails even at home using smartphones - which led to usually unpaid overtime, reports The Guardian. This is on top of the nation's famously short 35-hour work week, notes Mashable.

The law, which was launched Jan. 1, requires companies with 50 or more employees to come up with a charter of good conduct that sets out the hours when workers are not obliged to check or respond to work-related emails, reports BBC. This legislation is expected to help lessen the effects of the work culture that carries a risk of stress, burnout, sleep problems and relationship difficulties.

Socialist Member of Parliament Benoit Hamon, speaking to BBC in May 2016, said the work culture treats employees like "dogs on a leash" - that is, employees would leave the office physically, but still be attached to their work electronically.

Hamon explained that work-related texts, messages, and emails "colonize" the life of the worker, bringing constant stress that eventually leads to a breakdown. Studies showed this to be true, Hamon says.

NPR reports that studies do back up Hamon's claim. A study from the University of British Columbia found that workers who were told to check their emails only three times a day had less stress compared to those who would check their emails continuously, and another study from Colorado State University found that our well-being might be negatively affected because of the stress produced by anticipating emails after work hours.

Work outside or work-hours also affects relationships, Linh Le of Elia management consultants in Paris, said. Le explained that when an employee is at home with family but is "not at home" because he is thinking of his job, it does affect his relationship with them.

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