The “right to disconnect” will become a prominent must-watch issue in coming months. As of January 1st, a new French employment law requires companies with more than 50 employees to start negotiations that define the rights of their employees to ignore their emails and smartphones in the evenings, on weekends and during vacations. It will not be mandatory: if a deal between the management and the employees cannot be reached, the company will have to publish a charter that details its employees’ rights out-of-hours. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and whether such a novel idea gains any traction. Will it be just one further example of the French bureaucracy meddling into the private sector’s business or will it express a radically new vision that will be emulated elsewhere?
In light of the damage that our “always-on” work culture wreaks in terms of burnout and various mental issues, should the “right to disconnect” be legislated? Or will the private sector act proactively? Some large companies such as Areva (a nuclear power utility) and Axa (one of France’s largest insurers), not only in France but in Germany as well (Volkswagen, Daimler…), have already taken measures that reduce their employees’ commitments outside of the normal office hours. Watch this space: this issue will become a prominent global one in 2017.