In France, politicians will vote on a measure that boggles the mind: banning work emails and communications that exist outside the workday. It’s known as the “disconnection” clause, and it’s reportedly the only agreed-upon clause in a wide-reaching and controversial labor bill.
Imagine: a future world in which you go home and are legally obligated not to continue work. Almost no job is sacred, these days; almost every employee, be he or she white- or blue-collar, is obligated — either by bosses or by conscience — to check and respond to emails outside the workday. This measure seeks to change that trend and return leisure time to the commoners.
And the French are — justifiably, one might add — angry. “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work,” Socialist MP Benoît Hamon tells the BBC. “They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash — like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails — they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”
Like most work impositions, the implied requirement to stay on the virtual clock once home seems like a logical, business-minded move. Rather than (gasp when you read this) let emails sit unanswered for several hours, bureaucracy flows uninterrupted. There’s no 9-a.m. commotion as workers waste time catching up on communications they delayed by half a day; instead, workers can carpe-work-diem the moment they arrive at the office.
But like most work impositions, this implied requirement is actually counterproductive. Or so these French would very much like their superiors to believe. Always remaining on the virtual clock sucks souls dry and leaves hollowed-out shells that, sans minds, struggle to keep up when they’re on the actual clock. Everyone needs downtime, everyone needs creative outlets; emailing nixes our chances of achieving both.
There are some dissenters in France, though. Some people claim to enjoy keeping up-to-date, and would much prefer that their compulsions are not banned. (This “law” would function more as a strong suggestion and reference point, though — as it stands, there would be no violation penalties.) Others acknowledge that France, as a nation, would likely fall behind in our unforgiving, grinding modern global society.
But these are ideas that demand airtime. The workplace, with technology’s leaps and bounds, is rapidly changing. Our expectations must keep pace.