Thanks to the digital revolution, the pressure to remain “on” 24/7 is mounting for our modern workforce. The concept of a work/life balance is becoming increasingly blurred – very few of us leave our work stresses in the office. We’ve all been there; it’s the end of a long working day, and you’re about to wind down when your phone’s all-too-familiar beep diverts your attention. Four unread work emails are demanding your attention, silently rebuking you for not opening them immediately. You want to ignore them, but you feel compelled to respond – what if it’s a job-related emergency? And just like that, you’re back in work mode, despite leaving the office hours ago.
In an effort so save their employees from the perils of digital burnout, the French government is tackling this growing problem head on. They about to vote on a bill giving workers the legal “right to disconnect” from work emails outside of their contracted hours.
President Francois Hollande wants to push a labour bill through the French Parliament in which companies with more than 50 employees must state the hours during which staff must not send or answer work emails – usually in the evening and at weekends.
The French government is adamant the problem of permanent connection is universal and growing – it impacts general health and wellbeing, sleep patterns and your relationships – and that intervention is needed now.
“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” Socialist MP Benoit Hamon told the BBC.
“Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached to an electronic leash – like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails – they colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”
Women, in particular, are feeling the pressure. A study in Cosmopolitan suggested today’s women have become ‘generation burnout’ due to excessive working hours and stress, almost three-quarters (71%) said they’ve experienced an anxiety or panic attack while 40% said they’d sought medical help because of work anxiety. The symptoms appeared to be linked to their working patterns, with more than half of the 750 women surveyed saying they obsess over work – even when they’re off the clock. Almost half said they check their work emails every day outside office hours, including weekends.
Despite this concept gaining widespread support, there are many questioning how such a law could be enforced. However, there’s no doubting it would have a positive impact; one study alone showed that workers who were made to disconnect from work-related content on their smartphones and tablets felt happier at home – and were more satisfied, enthusiastic and efficient at work.
We say, bring on the work email ban.