France Passes Law Giving Workers the Right to Unplug

Many employees dream of a world in which late-night emails are banished from their inboxes. France has made that dream a reality, recently passing a new law that gives workers the “right to disconnect” from their responsibilities during off-hours.
That’s right. Per the new legislation, if you live in France and work at a company with more than 50 employees, you should OK about ignoring an email from your boss that comes outside of normal working hours. The bill comes during a time when employees’ lives are increasingly interconnected and entwined with their work responsibilities.
For all the benefits in productivity and efficiency afforded by technology, the advancements have not come without a cost to work/life balance. Our own survey of more than 5,000 workers in the U.S. and EMEA found that work/life balance is more correlated to overall employee happiness than any other driver, including management and team dynamics. What’s more, in our study, employees based in the EMEA did not report having a markedly better work/life balance than their U.S. counterparts.
While it remains to be seen how the new law will be enforced, the move underscores the increasingly complex dynamics of a hyper-connected and technologically-empowered global workforce. It also points out just how important work/life balance is becoming to the overall health and happiness of people around the world. As QZ points out, it’s somewhat “ironic” that France, with its 35-hour workweek and lax vacation policy is “clamoring for additional downtime.”

France deserves kudos for addressing what everyone else ignores: The blurring of work and home life is messing us up. We carry our work with us everywhere, via laptops and smartphones and WiFi. And while that’s made some things easier, it has simultaneously forced us to be instantly and always accessible. This “forever on” culture leaves little time to disconnect and reboot, leading to increased levels of worker burnout, stress, and damaged relationships.

While it’s unlikely that we will be ignoring our smartphones anytime soon, managers can do their part by promoting a culture that espouses a healthy and transparent work/life balance. Since what’s “healthy” can vary by team, role and individual, maintaining ongoing conversations with your employees about their stress levels and workload is critical to keeping teams happy and engaged.