We’re pretty bad at switching off here in the UK, but the French have work-life balance nailed.
Health, style, skincare: there are countless things the French are credited with doing somewhat better than other countries.
But perhaps most significantly of all, in France a 35-hour working week is the norm. And guess what? Despite the distinct lack of overtime and presenteeism, wellbeing and productivity rates generally get a better press than the UK’s. Any approach that leaves us happier, better at our jobs and with more free time on our hands is probably worth serious consideration.
So how to live and work like the French? Think Productive’s Hayley Watts provided some helpful, easily implementable pointers during her appearance at this year’s Stylist Live.
1. Ignore emails (sometimes)
Set yourself three times each working day when you’re going into your email inbox, and only go in at these times. The rest of the time you’re working on something else completely. Think about the technology you can use, too: auto-archive, for example, might be good for those emails you know you need to store but never read. And Outlook Tasks can help you assign a specific task to an email.
What specific thing makes you feel recharged? That might be taking a proper lunch break: the French always take a full hour for lunch. In the UK, 84% of workers only leave their desk for a meeting or a loo break. So make like the French and do what you need to do to make you feel energised. Some firms provide perks – a company in Japan gives non-smokers an extra six days of annual leave per year, to make up for the cigarette breaks that smokers take.
3. Separate work from home
Working from home? Try a mock commute: leave the house and walk around the block to begin the day, and once again to end the day. This helps you switch off, decompress and finish your day properly.
4. Set targets
Set yourself small, attainable targets: if you’re afraid of speaking up in meetings, for example, tell yourself that you have to speak at least once per session.
5. Learn from mistakes
When judges are making decisions about a sentence, a person is much more likely to be sent to prison if they’re seen before lunch or at the very end of the day. Exhaustion and hunger can affect our perspective. What decisions are you making, and are you making them when you’re at your best?
6. Make holiday count
You need to decide on a cut-off point, where you resolve not to look at your work emails out-of-hours. Try setting up your email inbox before you go on holiday so that it deletes every message you receive while you’re away, meaning you’ll come back to an inbox that looks the same as it did when you left. Obviously, also turn off the email notifications on your phone.