Is the “Right” to Disconnect Coming to the U.S. & Will it Work?

By Beyond

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The Right to Disconnect Law in France

In today’s hyper-connected business environment, detaching from work is borderline impossible. Thanks to the various devices within arm’s reach throughout the day, we have the ability to be plugged in constantly—for better or for worse.

At the start of the year, France signed a law giving their workers “the right to disconnect” outside of 9 to 5. France is already home to the envy-inducing 2-hour lunch, 35-hour workweek, and month-long summer holiday. Now French companies with over 50 employees are obligated to set up hours (most likely on weekends and weeknights) where employees cannot send or answer emails, texts or phone calls. In fact, these details must be negotiated with an employee before a job offer has even been accepted.

A healthy work-life balance is incredibly important to people in any country, but is a law to make it mandatory really feasible to run a business?

Sure, it sounds nice to be under no obligation to answer your coworker’s emails at 7:30 pm while you’re out to dinner, but as an employee you’re expected to deliver the results you’re paid to deliver. Does this mean you should be answering your phone at 3:00 am? Probably not, unless you’re on call. But you should absolutely feel obligated to stay late to finish up a big project or check your email on Sunday night if necessary. Yes, there’s some grey area here, but some roles require that employees need to work outside of normal hours. For instance, I manage Beyond’s social media program so I check in on our social channels outside of the hours of 9 to 5 on the regular. It just comes with the territory. And today, it comes with the territory for most everyone.

A lot of companies offer incredible benefits like flex scheduling and the ability to work from home. As some workplace environments grow increasingly casual, it’s become the norm to step out of the office to call daycare or send a tweet (about France’s right to disconnect…so #meta. See what I did there?) while on the clock. But it’s a two-way street. If you’re going to take care of some personal business while at work taking care of some business while you’re home should be expected. So, in France, are employees all business while they’re at work? If yes, then I agree that this law makes sense, but if employees in France are handling personal matters on company time, that’s not okay. This would never fly in the United States.

One of the main reasons for this law in France is to help prevent burnout and promote good health. But for a country where employees receive on average 30 days a year of paid vacation, I don’t have much empathy. According to Project Time Off, 55 percent of Americans did not use all of their vacation days in 2015. Americans have always been proud of the hard work they do and as a country of dreamers and innovators; a law like this would only stifle innovation. Ideas like Apple, Facebook and Tesla were not dreamed up in the confines of 9 to 5, and we should keep things that way.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about balance and a good boss wants you to have a work life balance. A good boss is agreeable to you taking a personal phone call on their time as long as you’re agreeable to answering your emails outside of traditional work hours when needed. But you should also put your phone away before you go to sleep to clear your mind and start using those vacation days to unplug. Once a year, go on a vacation where you can’t look at your phone or work email. These small changes will allow you to truly disconnect to recharge.

So, could this “right to disconnect” law ever exist in the United States? It’s unlikely.

About the Author:

Julie Shenkman is a Marketing and Communications Manager at Beyond. She has more than ten years of experience in the areas of public relations, social media, online marketing, and sarcasm.

Connect with Julie on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/julieshenkman/ or follow her on Twitter at @JulieShenkman.

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