French Law Giving Workers 'The Right To Disconnect' Goes Into Effect : The Two-Way As of Jan. 1, French companies with more than 50 workers will be obligated to allow their employees to ignore work emails outside of work hours.
NPR logo French Law Giving Workers 'The Right To Disconnect' Goes Into Effect

French Law Giving Workers 'The Right To Disconnect' Goes Into Effect

If you've been glued to your smart phone checking work email throughout the holiday season, you might want to consider relocating. French workers will have the "right to disconnect" outside of work hours, thanks to a new law going into effect Jan. 1.

Companies with more than 50 employees will be obligated to set up hours — normally during the evening and weekend — when staff are not to send or respond to emails.

Introduced with a set of labor laws back in May, this was reportedly the only one that did not generate widespread protests — though it did receive a lot of attention from the press.

The French government said at the time that an intervention was necessary, for the health and well-being of their workers.

"All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant," member of parliament Benoit Hamon told the BBC. "Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash - like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails - they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down."

There is some research that backs up the French government's claims. A study out of the University of British Columbia found that participants who were assigned to check their email only three times a day were found to be less stressed than those who could check their emails continuously. Another study out of Colorado State University found that even the anticipatory stress of expecting after-hours emails might have a negative effect on our well-being.

There is certainly more research to be done, and perhaps once the French law is in place, we will have the makings of a real world "experiment."