In an increasingly work-focused culture, it can be pretty hard to disconnect and leave that stress at the office. Especially in a society that is always on and connected to our devices, the delineation between work and personal life can become pretty murky. Add a pandemic into the mix that has completely shifted how, when, and where we work, and the separation of the two becomes nearly impossible. But finding an appropriate work-life balance is essential to our overall physical and mental health and well-being.
Recognizing that fact, in 2016 the French government passed a law protecting employees’ “right to disconnect.” Part of a larger French labor law that went into effect in 2017, it stipulates that employers cannot require their employees to be available for workplace communication, like calls or emails, outside of regular work hours or during their time off. Even then, it was obvious that this constant connectivity was becoming a detriment to employee health, and many studies have supported that theory.
“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” says Socialist MP Benoit Hamon. ”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 colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”
Though the larger labor law that this clause belongs to was extremely controversial when it passed, the “right to disconnect” was the one thing that most people agreed on. Still, there are no hard and fast rules as to how it is to be implemented. Instead, in companies of 50 people or more, it is left up to employees and employers to determine the policies and arrangements that best suit their individual needs based on the industries they work in. And even with the onset of widespread remote work, it is still required that “the distinction between work time and leisure time must be clear and guarantee the employees’ right to disconnect.”
In the time since France passed this law, several other countries have enacted similar legislation to protect workers’ rights and employee health. However, it is still far from being a widespread measure.
The French government passed a law that keeps businesses from requiring their employees to be available for workplace communication, like calls or texts, outside of regular work hours.