Mais non, Monsieur, I Would Not Like France's Email Ban

3 years ago

I'm aware that a lot of people are jealous of the new labour agreement signed in France that will go into effect if approved by the Labour Ministry that states that workers cannot check their work email nor can their employer contact them after hours.  Though there isn't a firm cut-off time, the hour is set to ensure that employees can relax the full minimum regulated time of 11 hours while they're away from work.  So no checking email on the weekend, no quick phone call from the boss while you're sitting down to dinner, and no text messages received right before you go to bed.

The New York Times had a brief overview of the new rule which would be implemented according to the needs of each business.  Scott Sayare reports,

Under the agreement, she said, each company would develop its own policy and enforcement mechanisms. One might choose to block communications from 11 p.m. to 10 a.m. by shutting down its email servers, for example, while another might simply ask employees not to check email between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Due to a lot of miscommunication in the press, the deal sounded a lot better in reporting than it is in actuality.  It isn't that impressive to be offline from 9 p.m to 8 a.m., especially when you consider the inverse: you can still be expected to be accessible from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. -- 13 hours.

Image: Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Twitter was filled with people repeating misinformation from the articles -- such as the 6 p.m. cut-off time -- and sighing that they wished they could move to the European country too.

But I'm not packing my bags so soon.  Even though the measure was put in place to protect the health of employees, many of whom the New York Times reports work for companies in different time zones, hence the extended work hours, a side effect is that the rule removes workplace flexibility.

I'm grateful that I work for companies that allow me to flex my hours to do the work when it is convenient for my family.  While I may have deadlines from time to time which pop up without a lot of notice, the vast majority of my work is slipped into hours that allow me to be fully present for my children when they're awake and at home.  Sometimes that means working while they're in school, and other times, I'm working at 2 a.m.

And that's what works best for me and my family.  It allows us to have the life we want.  Under France's email ban, I wouldn't be able to flex my schedule, and in turn, I would have to make some hard choices between working at all and parenting the way I want.

Beyond that, there are times when I know I'm going to have a busy week, and I used the weekend to work ahead while I have an extra set of hands at home.  It makes me feel more relaxed to go into the week feeling as if my workload is under control.

The benefits for the ban are obviously wonderful: removing the pressure to constantly be plugged in after work hours in case an employer needs to reach you.  But like most good things, there are drawbacks to the plan.  And frankly, they're drawbacks that greatly impede flexibility.

So, nope, not moving to France.

What do you think of France's email ban?  Do you think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and are the benefits really that impressive?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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