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France to give workers right to ignore emails after hours

France looks set to give workers the freedom to turn off their smart phones and laptops and ignore work emails when at home or on holiday.

France to give workers right to ignore emails after hours
Photo: Buzz Farmers/Flickr

The French labour ministry is thrashing out the details of a new set of labour laws, one of which could give professionals in France the “right to disconnect” when outside official hours.

Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri is due to present her package of labour reforms in the coming weeks.

While most of the measures are aimed at freeing up the notoriously rigid French labour market, she is also concerned about making sure French workers remain adequately protected.

According to reports in France she will include a proposal to give employees protection under law so they can turn a blind eye to work emails without feeling guilty when they are at home or on holiday.

The idea apparently originated in a report by the director general of mobile giant Orange, Bruno Mettling.

While a minority of companies already have protections in place to prevent employees responding to emails once they are at home, Mettling wants it written into law.

“There are risks that need to be anticipated and one of the biggest risks is the balance of a private life and professional life behind this permanent connectivity,” the Orange chief told Europe1 radio.

And Mettling thinks it would be good for everyone – both workers and their companies.

“Professionals who find the right balance between private and work life perform far better in their job than those who arrive shattered,” he said.

And Mettling’s words will strike a chord with many of the 3.2 million French workers who are apparently at risk of burning out, according to a study by Technologia, a French firm which looks at ways to reduce risks to workers.

“France’s appearance from the outside can be a bit simplified,” Technologia's head Jean-Claude Delgenes told The Local. “There is a lot of overtime. Most workers don’t adhere strictly to the 35-hour work week.”

Instead, they are staying late, doing more and working remotely because the economic crisis has them in fear of losing their jobs, he says. France is seeing a record unemployment rate but at the same time email and smart phones allow people to work any time, any place.

“We have poor self-control when it comes to new technology,” Delgenes said. “Work spills over into people’s private lives. The difference between work and social life used to be clearly distinct.”

Delgenes backs a reform to give workers a right to disconnect but says it is more important that companies lessen workloads or the risk of burnout could increase.

“We need a change of attitude. If we introduce a right to disconnect but not reduce the workload for those under pressure, managers will just ignore it or find a way of staying connected,” he told The Local.

“We need to stop putting people in a position where they are forced to eat into their personal time to get their job done.”

Technologia discovered that the number of managers in France, known as “cadres” who work at home between the hours of 8pm and midnight shot up from one third to 52 percent in the space of a decade.

And ironically it doesn’t mean they have become more productive.

“When people work too much, they end up working badly. It is counter-productive,” he said and it pushes many people to the edge of burnout,” he said.

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French ‘have more sex while working from home’, poll claims

For most people working from home means rarely changing out of PJs and spending a lot of time on zoom calls - but respondents to one French poll said for them it's an opportunity to have more sex.

French 'have more sex while working from home', poll claims
A change from the classic work-from-home outfit of pyjamas. Photo: AFP

A poll conducted by Ifop for extra-marital dating site Gleeden reported one third of respondents (34 percent) saying they had had sex during working hours while on télétravail (home working) and one third of people said they had more desire for their partner since the second lockdown in October.

In total 18 percent of people said they are having more sex now than they did before the pandemic.

“I've got into the habit, since I've been working at home, of taking a little nap in the middle of the day,” web designer Tomas told Le Parsien, “and my girlfriend often joins me”.

“Sometimes we even warm up beforehand with very explicit messages. In the end, it doesn't take us long, we are very relaxed afterwards and just as efficient when we get back behind our screens to work. Frankly, it's better than a cigarette break in the cold outside the office.”
 
The trend was particularly marked among couples with children, when working hours have become time spent together at home without the children around.
 
“Unlike in the spring, the children are at school and without our travel time, our days are longer,” said Sophie, a civil servant based in Strasbourg, who works two days a week at home with her husband.
 
However, some of the participants told pollsters that lockdown and working from home had lead to a drop in morale and libido, while others said being with their partners all day dampened their desire.
 
The French government still recommends télétravail for those who can, but in January released an updated protocol adding extra days in office for those who wanted them, recognising the impact of loneliness and isolation on many home-workers.
 
The poll – entitled The sexual and emotional life of the French during the second lockdown – was carried out on 2,017 over-18s between November 24th and 30th.
 
 

 

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