Unless you decided to switch off your smartphone this week, you would have heard reports that France has brought in rules to protect employees from work emails outside of office hours.
The agreement between some federations and unions means that after 6pm, employees have to switch off their work phones, stop checking emails and enjoy a nice Bordeaux on the sun-soaked terrace of a Parisian café (okay, we imagined the last bit).
This might be a taste of liberté for the French, but would a ban on work emails outside of office hours be a good idea?
FOR: We can't be on full-time work mode
Technology is blurring the line between the professional and personal. We’re now expected to be contactable full-time, and this means answering incessant work emails that eat away at your soul until a sycophantic shell is left. We’ve seen the stats on increasing levels of stress and anxiety, and that’s in part because there’s an underlying pressure to be in perpetual work mode. People are at their most productive when rested; we need time away from the office, both physically and mentally. If we can’t literally switch off, our workforce will end up burned out – that’s not helpful to any company, and certainly not good for society as a whole. Too many workers are stuck in a culture of presenteeism – with a lack of pay rises to boot. With a lingering hangover from the recession and high rates of unemployment, some bosses think they can push staff to the limits. Anything that prohibits companies taking advantage of those terrified of redundancy or bullying is to be applauded.
AGAINST: Get ahead of the game
Let's disregard the major flaw of how this might actually be enforced and consider instead that we live in a technologically advanced society. Thanks to our smartphones, we have the luxury of being able to work from pretty much anywhere (rewind to ten years ago – remember when we WEREN’T connected, all the time, and HAD to be in the office to send correspondence via pigeon-courier?). The world is in our pockets, and in fact, we actually quite like engaging with it. If we’re flicking through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all the time anyway, what harm does replying to the occasional work email do? And don’t we get some satisfaction from coming in to the office slightly ahead of the game, basking in the smugness that we’ve dealt with a couple outstanding work requests the night before? If I’m serious about not being connected, i.e. on holiday, I’ll switch my phone off. If there’s work that needs doing, there's work that needs doing. So do it.