Since the 1st of January, in France, a law applied an interesting new concept called the “Right to be Disconnected”. This new law has one simple goal, to give employees a better work-life balance and as a result there will be a need for employers to negotiate a work/life balance agreement with employees. This new law is aimed at protecting workers from being overworked and avoiding the associated symptoms of anxiety and stress. The logic is the same as what we saw in a previous blog “Bored, Browned off and Burnt out?”. Larger companies have already started to implement these new work-life balance arrangements.
What is involved?
The French government proposes that employees should not answer e-mails in their free time. Indeed, according to French government statistics; 37% of workers use various forms of technology during their free time for work purposes and 62% of all workers wish for a better work/life balance.
Since January 2017 there is now an obligation on companies to negotiate this complex issue with employees. A few simple solutions were recommended by French business leaders. The first was to make it illegal to send emails after 8 PM. Some companies have blocked emails from their server from 8PM to 8AM and for the duration of the weekend. Consequently, there is less temptation for employees to check their inbox in their free time as they know with certainty there will be nothing there.
What are the benefits?
As a result, these initiatives could reduce tension in the home which often arise from employees doing work at home which infringes on their family commitments.
Furthermore, this law creates parity of perception for all workers; workers who work from home will no longer be seen by companies in a better light than those who decide to get their work done in their core working hours.
What are the potential hurdles?
Sometimes it’s very difficult to achieve this work/life balance. For example, take for example the owners of young and small start-up, who are totally reliant on their new venture being a success. It is vital to check emails, to plan meetings 24/7 in most new start-ups who are hungry to succeed.
A second example is where a company works in the international environment, they must take some calls during week end or free time, a classic example would be in the form of a global call centre or a global logistics company, both who service many different time-zones.
Are there any fines or sanctions?
There are currently no penalties or sanctions if a company does find agreement on this new work-life balance initiative. However, bizarrely, there are sanctions if companies do not partake in negotiations with employees. The biggest penalty is €3750 and a one year jail term!
There is no one size fits all solution. For example, Orange (a market leading French phone company), they are trialling a scheme in a few offices, where for one day per week employees will not have access to e-mails. This is a nice idea but this would be impractical for many companies.
In conclusion, the concept of having a good work-life balance is very important in the current corporate environment. Yet it needs to be designed more efficiently by the French government for this initiative to succeed. To start with it would be better if we all refer to this initiative as a duty rather than a right. In addition, the work-life criteria aren’t always clear. Most people have a professional LinkedIn profile which is not only use it for work purposes. We also need to consider the complexities of teleworking, which is often carried out in the home residence.
This innovative law probably needs time to be accepted and understood by employers. Each company is different and will come up, through negotiating with their employees, with a unique work life balance solution, that best fits the needs of both employers and their employees alike