Meanwhile in France

Nothing can ruin a relaxing weekend or holiday like an email from the office. Even if there’s no need to take action until Monday, the unwanted intrusion of professional life can have a real impact on employees.

If employees are unable to disconnect, relax and recharge at weekends or during periods of annual leave this can impact on their performance and productivity resulting in a negative impact on employers.

In France a country that’s famous for giving its employees 30 days off a year and 16 weeks of full-paid family leave, just made itself an even more attractive proposition for employees with its new “right to disconnect” law.

The new law requires that if you are a company of 50 employees or more, you must stipulate the hours when employees are not supposed to send or answer emails. The law has come about because studies show that in the digital age it’s become increasingly difficult for employees to distance themselves from the workplace during their non working hours. This new law aims to protect an employees non-working hours and allow them to take full advantage of their time off.

“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly told the BBC. “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.”

The new law stipulates that companies are required to negotiate policies that limit the intrusion of work into their employees’ private lives. Currently the legislation has no penalties for companies who fail to comply with the new law, but companies are required to establish “charters of good conduct” that specify the times which employees are free from being digitally connected to their workplaces.

In Germany, at Daimler, they have adopted a unique approach to email correspondence during annual leave, if you email someone at Daimler whilst they are on holiday you will get a message like this:

‘I am on vacation. I cannot read your email.
Your email is being deleted. Please contact John or Betty if it’s really important, or resend the email after I’m back in the office.

The digital disconnect amendment has been viewed favourably by the French public. Whether or not the Government in the UK will be minded to regulate the use of work emails or not it would be good for employers to consider their current approach to what they expect of employees when dealing with work communications and emails at evenings, weekends and on annual leave and reduce the risk of digital burnout for their employees.

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