Should employees have the “right to disconnect” from work emails?

By Charlie Knight |


The January blues have kicked in, your email inbox is overflowing and all the stresses that come with facing another year are piling up on your increasingly untidy desk. If you don’t do something about it, it’s only a matter of time before you succumb to digital burnout.

Work-related stress is at an all-time high, and this is made worse by our growing inability to “switch off” after work hours.

When we physically leave the office, most of us don’t really leave our work behind. How often do you find yourself habitually scrolling through your inbox as you try and fail to concentrate on the latest episode of Game of Thrones?

Our mobile phones are like an electronic leash, tying us to the office and bombarding us with stress-inducing texts, messages, emails when we should be using this time to clear our heads and wind down after a hard day’s work.


The right to disconnect

The French government have taken steps to counter this by introducing a new law which gives employees across France the “right to disconnect” from emails after work hours.

As of January 1st, companies with more than 50 workers will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours in which staff are not supposed to send or respond to emails.

Checking and replying to emails outside of work hours is still work, and this is overtime for which employees are not being paid. The practice carries a risk of stress, burnout, sleep problems and relationship difficulties which will be ultimately detrimental to business.


Will it work?

Limiting workers’ use of work email after hours seems like a good idea in theory, but will the law work in practice?

Of course mitigating the threat of burnout is a positive, as well as the accompanying physical, psychological and emotional distress caused by a total inability to disconnect and relax. Yet some are much more sceptical about the ruling.


"I think [the right to disconnect] is wonderful for improving the human condition but totally inapplicable. In my company we compete with Indian, Chinese, American developers. We need to talk to people around the world late into the night. Our competitors don't have the same restrictions. If we obeyed this law we would just be shooting ourselves in the foot " Gregory, Software Writer


Understandably there are some doubts – many international companies operating across different time zones often need to be in contact 24/7, and using the early morning commute as a way to get a headstart on work emails can actually reduce the stresses of the day.

Some even feel the law will be very quickly made irrelevant, due to decline in email collaboration and the rise in instant messaging and video communication. Where to draw the line on the right to disconnect will become less and less obvious.

The right to disconnect is a mixed bag – there are clearly huge psychological benefits to limiting work hours yet whether it will work in practice is another story. Since companies are expected to comply voluntarily and there is currently no sanction whatsoever for violating the ruling, the impact of the law will only go so far.

What do you think of the law? Will it work? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


What does the future hold for recruitment?

Trends like this designed to improve the work/life balance of employees mean the workplace of the future will look very different. The way companies recruit will have to adapt, as candidates' expectations of companies are changing. For more information about how your company will have to rethink your hiring strategy in future, take a look at our eBook on the future of recruitment.

Future of Technology and Recruitment

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Charlie Knight

Written by Charlie Knight

Charlie has 3 years experience in digital marketing, helping B2B technology companies grow their businesses through inbound marketing before joining Vine Resources as Content Marketing Manager. In his spare time, Charlie enjoys travelling and the great outdoors, and he recently hiked from Mexico to Canada for charity.

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