Europe News

Buried in Work Emails? Here's Another Reason to Envy the French

Alyssa Newcomb

Fed up with checking emails on your days off or after hours? Well, now you can ignore them all, without fear of losing your job! That is, if you live in France.

As of the new year, many French workers now have the "right to disconnect" from work email during their off hours.

While you may be slammed with an avalanche of emails today — on a day that is technically a holiday — those lucky French are not paying attention to their inboxes, if they can help it.

The new law, which took effect January 1, requires businesses with more than 50 employees to negotiate after-hours email rules with their employees.

"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," Benoit Hamon, a member of Parliament, told the BBC in May when the measure was introduced.

More from NBC News:

In workplace of the future, you're on your own (for better or worse)
Meet 2017's must-know congressional power players
Dubai billionaire ready to do more deals with Trumps

While there is currently no penalty for violating the law, the hope is that companies will voluntarily comply with it.

There's proof that saying "au revoir" to work emails when you're off the clock may be a good thing: A study from the University of British Columbia found people who were told to check their email only three times per day were less stressed than their always-on counterparts.

Could something like this ever work in the United States? Jeffrey Adelson, general counsel and managing partner at Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell & Jimenez, said it would be a challenge.

"At some point in time the diligent employee will feel compelled to 'catch up,' which may result in working off the clock," he told NBC News. "My experience tells me the email faucet cannot be turned off once it is on."

Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert and author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant," told NBC News that while work-life balance is a "noble cause," she doesn't see a law like this ever coming to the United States.

"Improved work-life can be accomplished in more business- and employee-friendly ways," she said. "This legislation will hurt corporate productivity because our society has come to expect instant communications and unprecedented customer service."

Related Tags