Ministers in France decided it was time to pass a right to disconnect law to free workers from their electronic leashes. We need that in the US, too
In the sometimes-good old days, you could simply take your phone off the hook and actually shut out the world while you concentrated on your dinner, your book or your lover. Of course, you can unplug now as well, but if you work for a company where everyone else toils around the clock, its tough to do. You might even risk damaging your career if you try. But fret not. There is now hope from across the seas.
The French have found a way to free workers from the tyranny of octopus-like bosses and co-workers who send their tentacles through space and into your bedroom or your porch. As of New Years Day, they are protected by a new law establishing workers right to disconnect.
The law requires companies with more than 50 employees to establish a charter of good conduct that sets out times when staff should not send or answer emails. The goals of the law include making sure employees are fairly paid for work and preventing burnout by protecting private time. While it puts my culotes dans un tas to admit it, I think this is a fine thing, and employers in America would do well to consider doing something similar.
Myriam El Khomri, the French minister of labor, commissioned a report that catalogued the health impact of being constantly connected to work even when people were physically away from their workplaces. Burnout affects employees health as well as productivity. Lack of sleep cant be good for morale or the bottom line. Benoit Hamon, the former French education minister, compared employees to dogs attached by a kind of electronic leash.
El Khomri said: The boundary between professional and personal life has become tenuous. You tell em, Myriam.
One of the great unmentioned side effects of a law like this is the instant removal of license to be rude in company. You know the feeling: youre in a restaurant with a friend and he or she is constantly checking texts and emails. You fume silently but what can you say to the apologetic: Sorry, I have to get this, its work?
If you know it couldnt be work, your companion might feel a little more sheepish about snubbing you during dessert. The flip side is that you cant escape to your phone, either, if youre bored. But lets not hide behind our screens so much if youre bored, why not change the conversation instead, or throw a bread roll, or do anything, really, as long as its something real?
Some people would probably miss being connected to work. After all, we do all aim to love our work and be engaged. Work-life balance is a noble pursuit. But if you cant bear to ever be away from work, then heres my suggestion: get a life.
One of my lifes ambitions is to see the green flash. The green flash occurs most often at sunset, when the Earths atmosphere bends the setting suns light in such a way that green wavelengths reach us, and the other colors are filtered out, so that we see a dazzling celestial emerald flame. It lasts only a second or two: it is wonderful, and then it is gone.
Why am I suddenly talking about atmospheric phenomena? Because, if youre looking at your phone reading about tomorrows meeting, youll miss it. And if you think the meeting is more important than an incandescent signal from the heavens, then only heaven can help you, my friend.