Colliding With The Social Web

French Worker - Claudio Munoz, The Economist

Should Employers And Employees Negotiate On After-Hours Communication? Would You Support Restricting Or Banning Work Email During Certain Times?

Should employers and employees in the U.S. by required to negotiate on after-hours communication?

Would you support restricting or banning work email during certain times of the day or night?

And if you agree with restricting or banning communication during certain times, do you think that would adversely impact productivity?

I bring this up, because France has acted on this issue over the last few years. And with the start of the new year, and many people focused on goal-setting, quality of life, and being more successful, I thought it might be a good topic to bring up for discussion.

Apparently compelled to prevent worker burn-out (Really? In France?) and improve employee health and wellness, France recently passed regulations that require employers and employees to negotiate after-hours communication, and determine how much to allow.

In smaller companies, the boss will set the rules.

However, in middle-sized or large companies, the employer and employees will apparently create a charter that defines all of this.

Once a company establishes the rules, everyone involved (executives, directors, managers, etc) will participate in training sessions to make sure they all know how to limit communication outside of normal work hours, and what the guidelines are for communication.

A French worker (I believe this applies to mid-sized and large companies) has the right to be away from work email for at least 11 hours a day, if they choose. They can respond if they want or conduct business, but if they do not want to – there can be no mandate that compels them to check email or respond to messages.

While I have nothing against establishing a good home-work-life balance, and reducing work-related stress, I do wonder about the effectiveness of such regulations.

On the one hand, I do think Americans create a bad habit with email communication – believing that constantly communication is necessary in order to “stay on top of things” or remain vital to an organization. On the other hand, insisting on 11 hours of no work-related communication can reinforce bad habits in the other direction, and devalue the importance of responsiveness, and customer service.

It would seem to me that U.S. employees could benefit from a little more guaranteed down-time, while French workers could benefit from being forced to work a little bit harder.

Thoughts?