woman at work

Health warning needed: French person super hard at work

Did you hear about that article in the Guardian about the French government passing a law that means workers are not allowed to do any work after 6 pm? Except it’s not really true and workers will most likely continue to do their job much as they did before. And in a what is the world coming to moment, Buzzfeed of all places clarified what the Guardian failed to convey correctly.

The idea is that employers will be required to make sure staff disconnect from their smartphones and computers outside of working hours so that they don’t spend their entire evenings replying to work emails and answering requests from their bosses. It sounds pretty good to me in theory, although it does raise a couple of questions.

For the one thing, it seems to imply that French workers do too much work. The earth laughs in their face, because everybody knows about the lazy-arse French and their 35-hour weeks. But that’s just a bad stereotype, bad bad bad. True in some places of course, but not overall. What it does say however, which is unfortunately not remotely a stereotype, is that the French are really out of touch with the rest of the world, or completely brainwashed or both, and that bringing a thing like this in the middle of a recession, just, what are you doing? The French government is SO good at the whole ostrich head-in-the-sand thing and has form for focusing on tangential things instead of dealing with more pressing problems, like I don’t know, the fact that France’s economic recovery is deathly slow. I know this deal is a drop in the ocean of crapness that is the current economic crisis but please look outside your frontiers with something other than dismissiveness and get some awareness!

Secondly, this agreement seems quite impossible to regulate. Wouldn’t the right thing to do is to make the employers responsible for themselves to not send work emails after 6 pm? There is such a thing as a ‘delay delivery’ button in Outlook. Also some people actually like to work a lot; even the French, and do we really want to stop them?

Ultimately, it’s as much about self-regulation than it is about expectations. If you’re in a high-powered job, you work outside of office hours and get paid accordingly. If you want to, you can even turn off your phone and your work laptop, and you don’t need a legal agreement to do so.

In any case, I doubt anything will change in practice. What do you think?