Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

No more stress: why France has decided to ban out-of-hour work emails


The digital revolution has meant that the lines between the office and our home lives are increasingly blurred. Now, in an attempt to save employees from “digital burnout”, the French government is about to vote through a bill giving workers the legal “right to disconnect” from work emails.

President Francois Hollande used special constitutional powers on Tuesday to push a labour bill through the French Parliament. Under the bill, companies with more than 50 employees must state the hours during which staff must not send or answer work emails – normally in the evening and at weekends.

“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” Socialist MP 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 colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”


Checking work emails first thing in the morning has been shown to raise stress levels.

Mr Hamon’s analogy might sound ever so slightly OTT to British ears, but we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of being constantly connected to work.

Last year, a UK study showed that employees who check their work email early in the morning or late at night feel more pressurised – and that high email pressure negatively impacts their home lives. Their home life then had a negative effect on their performance at work.

Another study, by Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow, showed that workers who were made to disconnect from work-related content on their smartphones and tablets felt happier at home – and were more satisfied, enthusiastic and efficient at work.

And a study of over 32,500 UK employees by Britain’s Healthiest Workplace found that high stress contributes to industries losing up to 27 days of productive time per employee each year, costing the UK an average £57bn a year.

But while there is widespread support for the idea behind the “right to disconnect” law in France, there is some debate about whether it will be enforceable. Currently, there is no penalty for violation written into the legislation, and companies are expected to comply with the law voluntarily.

With the exception of the “right to disconnect” law, the labour reforms pushed through on Tuesday have been wildly unpopular in France, with violent protests breaking out in Paris and Nantes. President Hollande has made it easier for French employers to hire and fire, prompting fears that workers’ rights will be compromised.

Images: iStock



Why we should resist London's toxic culture of overtime


Why are we all so prickly nowadays?


Why the Danes finish work on time, every single day


The everyday habits that could be raising your stress levels

youve got mail tech.jpg

The art of slow living: how to master a tech-life balance in 2016


Is it ever appropriate to sign off work emails with a kiss?


Five things productive people do at the end of every working day


How living like a Danish woman made me happier


How to nail difficult work emails



“How beauty rituals help me manage my depression”

One writer found comfort in an unexpected place

21 Oct 2016

Stress is genuinely good for you, experts reveal

Forget everything you thought you knew about stress…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Must-watch Christmas TV: tune in for Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes

Just in time for Christmas

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Oct 2016

Bake Off fans, the BBC has already found a replacement show for GBBO

And it's set to hit our televisions very soon...

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Costa’s fancy new menu includes avocado toast and Prosecco

You may want to dress up for the world’s poshest Costa…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Real-life victims of revenge porn share their stories

“Within a week, everyone had seen them… I tried to kill myself shortly after”

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

People diagnosed with a terminal illness share powerful life lessons

“You only get one life – and we need to live it”

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

This gin is officially the best in Europe – and it's from the UK

Gin drinkers, take note…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Amazing tasting menus from top UK restaurants for under £50

Total steals from Michelin-starred spots

by Amy Swales
20 Oct 2016

9 hilarious tips for making it in a male-dominated workplace

"Never say anything that sounds like a question, even questions."

by Harriet Hall
20 Oct 2016