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France to make weekend emails illegal

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From having the world’s lowest working hours to employees suing for having a boring job, life for boss in France just got tougher after the country’s lower parliamentary house have passed a bill that would ban companies with 50 or more employees from sending emails outside regular work hours, according to reports by BBC News.

Socialist MP Benoit Hamon told BBC News workers are finding it increasingly difficult to detach themselves from work,

“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 colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.” he said.

While many thinks such a policy will further hinder the competitiveness  of the country, it is well-supported that no email outside office hours is better for employee’s health and productivity.

A new study authored by Liuba Belkin of Lehigh University, William Becker of Virginia Tech and Samantha A. Conroy of Colorado State University finds that after-hours email expectations is bad for work-family balance.  The study is the first to identify email-related expectations as a job stressor

Using data collected from 365 working adults, Belkin and her team finds expectation regarding “off” hour emailing negatively impacts employee emotional states, leading to “burnout” and diminished work-family balance.

Interestingly, they found it is not the amount of time spent on work emails, but the anticipation for emails after hours which drives up stress level leading to exhaustion.  Researchers explained that the anticipation for emails led to a a constant state of anxiety and uncertainty, this anticipatory stress make employees feel that they are unable to detach from work and feel exhausted regardless of the time spent on after-hours emails.

“This suggests that organizational expectations can steal employee resources even when actual time is not required because employees cannot fully separate from work,”  the researchers wrote.

“If an organization perpetuates the ‘always on’ culture it may prevent employees from fully disengaging from work eventually leading to chronic stress.  even though in the short run being “always on” may seem like a good idea because it increases productivity, it can be dangerous in the long-run,” said Belkin.

The authors suggested that if completely banning email after work is not an option, managers could implement weekly email free days. Another idea is to offer rotating after-hours email schedules to help employees manage their work and family time more efficiently.

While the no weekend email policy aims to help workers reduce stress, there are researchers who suggested otherwise. Workers might become anxious at a flood of emails they have to check in the morning according to Gillian Symon and Jon Whittle, who are researching how digital technology affects the work-life balance in the UK.

“I think the topic of work-related well-being is much larger than simply stopping email after-hours,” Whittle told The Washington Post.

“Email is just a medium used to communicate. The real problem is the culture of having to constantly do more and constantly do better than competitors.”

ALSO READ: Email wastes 17% of executives’ time

Image: 123RF

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