France started 2017 with a new labor law aiming to restore work-life balance — “the right to disconnect” from work after business hours.
What this means
Companies with more than 50 employees must create email guidelines that don’t interrupt evenings, weekends or vacations. French unions pushed for this policy, arguing that modern technology forces employees to work more than 35 hours without added compensation or benefits.
Why this won’t work in today’s society
We applaud France for its concern with employee burnout. Starting a dialogue is the first step. However, “work-life balance” is a misleading phrase.
In today’s connected society, we’re never fully at work or at home. Truly engaged employees will likely brainstorm about a work project while cooking dinner. And a fully engaged parent likely worries about their sick child while in a meeting. For employees to feel supported, companies need to embrace an integrated approach.
Instead of restricting hours, what about a flexible work schedule? Seventy-four percent of employees want flexible work hours, but only 46 percent get it. And those who do are 18 percent more engaged at work.
Giving employees more control over their schedules could increase overall engagement. This means employees can respond to an email late at night (if they choose), but they can also decide to leave early to exercise or to pick up their kids. It’s about trusting employees to get their work done on a schedule that works for them.
To learn more about how you can support work-life integration, check out our e-book on “Why work-life balance is dead.”