The Doyle Report: France’s Right to Disconnect Law Is Laughable, But Important Nonetheless

The Doyle Report: France’s Right to Disconnect Law Is Laughable, But Important Nonetheless

Beginning this month, the French law guaranteeing “the right to disconnect” goes into effect. 

Joie de vivre.

The French certainly have a thing or two to teach the rest of the world when it comes to living. The French dress right, eat right and…

O.K, call it two things. But c’mon, they are a big two.

What of the rest?

Well, that’s less certain. Take the nation’s view of work. Beginning this month, the French law guaranteeing “the right to disconnect” goes into effect. Like Obamacare, it applies to companies with 50 employees or more. Henceforth, employees of these companies will work under predetermined guidelines that establish when French workers will and will not have respond to email and other digital communications.

Before you roll you eyes and mutter something unkind or demeaning about the French work ethic, consider what the French had in mind. The right to disconnect law amounts to a reset of modern society. No, the French aren’t trying to take us back to 1975, but instead better prepare us for 2025. By then, we may be working 24x7.

At least the French are trying to do something about it. In HBR.org, French legislator Benoit Hamon sums of France’s view of modern work: “…[workers] leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash—like a dog.”

Does your job ask you to roll over?

If so, consider what the French had in mind. Work isn’t supposed to be a winner-take-all, fight-to-the-finish. Automation was supposed to help us, not make us grind more. I recall working at Cisco when the expression, “work isn’t where you go, it’s where you are” began to take root. Great idea, right? If only it were. Take many of the people who espoused that view on behalf of the company. Most I know no longer work there. What does that say?

When you’re done mulling that, consider this: Time Magazine reported in 2016 that Americans are working harder than ever but not enjoying productivity gains. Likewise, The Wall Street Journal wondered recently if all our activity may be costing us our ingenuity.

Yikes.

We can work anywhere. We can work anytime. (I’m writing this on Sunday.) And we can work with anyone. When we do, we can achieve great things.

But we can also waste a lot of time. Multitasking? Omnipresence? Always on? Nothing good gets done this way of working. May as well believe you have “Three Fingered Lightning.”

Don’t get me wrong: When it comes to hard work, the old adages apply—including the French ones. “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.”

Happy Monday all. Here’s to a good work week.

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