FRANCE LETS WORKERS TURN OFF, TUNE OUT AND LIVE LIFE

[1/3/17]  If the world does not envy the French enough already for their generous vacations, universal health care and fine food and wine, the arrival of 2017 brings this: a newly created “right to disconnect.”

Though ridiculed in some quarters as a ban on work-related email after hours, it is not quite that. But it is born of the enlightened view that it is actually beneficial for people not to work all the time, and that workers have the right to occasionally draw the line when their employer’s demands intrude on evenings at home, treasured vacations or Sundays with friends and family.

“Employees are more and more connected during hours outside of the office,” Myriam El Khomri, the minister of labor, said last year in justifying the need for the law.

“The boundary between professional and personal life has become tenuous,” and cases of burnout are becoming more prevalent, she said.

The measure is one of a raft of new laws that took effect with the beginning of the new year and that exemplify the search for compromises between preserving French traditions and making concessions to the realities of the modern world.

The new provision in the labor law does not ban work-related emails, but does require that companies with more than 50 employees negotiate a new protocol to ensure that work does not spill into days off or after-work hours.

Some consultants have recommended that employees and managers avoid the “reply all” function on emails to groups so that only one person is being asked to read an email and respond, rather than half the office.

Another approach recommends setting a time each evening after which employees are not expected to reply — several firms have designated the 10 hours between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., others the 12 hours between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.


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