Summer is the time for vacations, and with that comes the stress of balancing work pressures while out of the office. Many employees prefer not to take vacations when the alternative is trying to conduct work from a cell phone on the beach. Maybe California can learn from France, and the recently publicized “right to disconnect”.
The French Government has acknowledged the impact of persistent connectivity on both the economy and employee well-being. Since January 1st, French employees have a right to unplug. According to a report for the French Government covered in Time, “with this accumulation of emails, and these employees who return exhausted from the weekend because they have not disconnected, it is not the best way to be effective in companies.”
It is no surprise that work-related stress adds to healthcare costs. In fact, a group of Stanford business professors have estimated that workplace stress added between $125 and $190 billion dollars per year to America’s healthcare costs; overwork accounted for $48 billion of that, according to Fortune.
A never-ending connection to the workplace is certainly a significant source of stress, and the costs of stress are largely borne by employers. So France’s email restrictions could provide benefit to both workers and employers.
France’s “right to disconnect” does not necessarily mean that the employee must be completely unplugged while out of the office. Rather, the idea is to encourage employers to set up policies to address the flood of emails outside of work hours. For example, to establish more reasonable expectations for returning emails, or to avoid sending non-urgent emails outside working hours.
In fact, many French and even European companies have introduced guidelines prohibiting late afternoon staff meetings and emails outside working hours.
On the one hand, more regulation of work relationships is not welcome. But in France, news reports indicate that many companies have found increased productivity from employees returning to work refreshed and relaxed after important down time. And increased productivity, as well as less chance of off-the-clock claims by non-exempt employees answering emails after work, are both good things.
When was the last time you felt refreshed, relaxed, and reinvigorated at work? If it has been too long, maybe the French way is something for California employers to consider.
Many thanks to Natahaelle Gozlan for her contributions to this post.