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Is France right to ban out of hours emails?

27 July 2016

Is France right to ban out of hours emails?


France has successfully voted through a measure that requires companies to limit the spillover of work into their employees’ private lives – giving employees “the right to disconnect” their email out of office hours. All of which again calls into question the extent to which living in an increasingly technical world is affecting our wellbeing.

According to the French government, the problem of permanent connection is growing and intervention is needed. This view is reiterated by the French Socialist MP, Beniot Hamon: “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 colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

But is legislation– and not education – the answer?

When technology pioneer Oracle realised the extent to which new ways of working were affecting the health of its workforce, it decided to go down the education route.

Michelle Bradshaw, Compensation and Benefits Director for Oracle UK, explains: “Far from using the autonomy our home workers have to slack off, the international nature of our business meant some people were getting up at 5am to talk to Asia, dealing with the UK all day, then America until 11pm. You might be able to do that occasionally, but if you do it several times a week, you’re going to start feeling anxious and depressed.”

She adds, “The number of people with ‘low mood’ and stress-related issues was very high, but people still weren’t making the connection between how they were feeling and how they were behaving.”

Fortunately, after educating its highly driven workforce to listen to their bodies, take proper breaks and draw a line between work and life, employees were able to develop a clear understanding of things they could do to protect their mental health. This has in turn reduced absence and improved productivity.

[Read the full case study here]