Thinking of ignoring that late-night email from the boss? Go ahead – the French government‘s got your back.

Starting Jan. 1, France supports its workers’ “right to disconnect” from their work email during off-hours. The new employment law obliges companies of more than 50 workers to start negotiations with employees promoting their rights to ignore their phones and avoid compulsive after-hours email checking.

The measure was created to address the “always-on” work culture, which has been blamed for health problems such as burnout and has led to rising rates of unpaid overtime, The Guardian reported. If the employer and employees cannot agree, the former must release a charter that would explicitly show the out-of-hours demands on, as well as rights, of the latter.

The Scourge of ‘Info-Obesity’

Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri introduced the bill after he commissioned and received a report in September 2015 that warns against the health repercussions of “info-obesity” happening in various workplaces.

This new law – although the only clause in a larger, more controversial labor law that appears to enjoy consensus – is seemingly mum on any sanction for firms that fail to define it.

"Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash – like a dog,” Benoit Hamon, a Socialist Parliament member and ex-education minister in France, told the BBC back in May.

Linh Le, a partner at a Paris management consultancy firm, cites that corners of the home, such as the bedroom or the kitchen, have become workspaces. She warns that this “poses a real threat to relationships.”

A study from French researcher entity Eleas revealed that over one-third of French workers used their gadgets to work out-of-hours daily, with around 60 percent favoring regulation in order to clarify what their rights are.

France has had a 35-hour workweek since 2000, but the rule came under fire in recent times as the country’s unemployment rate surged to near-record high.

Baby Steps and Challenges

Some large corporations have already taken steps in limiting after-hours communication with workers before the new law took effect.

Germany’s Volkswagen and Daimler, along with France’s insurer Axa and nuclear power firm Areva, have introduced relevant practices, including automatically destroying emails once they are sent to employees on holiday.

PriceMinister, a Paris-based online marketplace, is also said to have implemented “no-email Fridays.” Its CEO Olivier Mathiot, though, felt the issue should be tackled through education, not the creation of more laws.

Some experts remind about employees’ need not just for protection but also flexibility. Linh Le also thinks the law will quickly become outdated, as emails could cease to exist and be replaced by something else in a couple of years.

Work-related stress does not seem to discriminate. Electronic health records (EHR), which provide doctors access to medical records even when they are at home and technically extend work hours, have been found to contribute to major burnout in doctors.

On the contrary, a 2015 study shows that workgroups with higher affective organizational commitment (AOC) – those who are more emotionally attached to their jobs – had higher psychological well-being, as well as fewer sleep disturbances and absences from sickness.

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