Here is an excerpt from a BBC article regarding a new rule introduced in France to help overworked employees.
….has introduced rules to protect about a million people working in the digital and consultancy sectors from work email outside office hours. Those are taken to be before 9am and after 6pm. The deal signed between employers federations and unions says that employees will have to switch off work phones and avoid looking at work email, while firms cannot pressure staff to check messages.
It will be interesting to see how this will help in cutting down the work hours of these employees. Now, the question needs to be asked whether this same rule will work in other countries.
What is the problem that is being solved?
Before we get into that, let us understand the problem that that this new rule is trying to solve. I think the problem is more to do with expectation than anything else. With the proliferation of smartphones, there is an expectation that has become commonplace; it is that of reading and replying to “non-critical” email after office hours. Anyone who does not read or reply to email after office hours is faced with two feelings of guilt.
One is the feeling that your coworkers will think that you are a slacker and the second feeling is of losing control over your inbox. With back to back to back meetings during the day, you know that your inbox will overflow if you don’t check your email whenever you can. Because of one or both of the above feelings of guilt, workers may usually get into the habit of checking and responding to their emails after office hours. So, the problem, I think, is perceived expectations as well as your own expectation of a clean inbox.
A new mindset needed
There have been many solutions provided to this problem. One solution that I feel will help is of developing a new mindset of leading a balanced life so that the choice can become clear. The main aspect in the development of this mindset is a very good understanding of your self-worth.
Vicki Robin, in her book “Your Money or Your Life” gives a very good explanation of what activities need to be included in calculating your self-worth. I blogged earlier about it and included a link to an online calculator too. Miki Agrawal in her excellent book, “Do Cool Sh*t” writes about how a high-paying job of an investment banker can turn into a minimum wage paying job if you include all the hours that are put into it.
Hourly wage calculation is a tangible aspect of your self-worth but there are intangibles too, like stress, disengagement and losing out on personal/family fun as you are checking emails late into the night. On this same topic, I remember hearing Bill Jensen and Josh Klein (Authors of Hacking Work) talking about an extra hour spent doing low-value/unnecessary work is like stealing an hour of your life and non-critical email definitely qualifies in that category.
With all these arguments, if you can develop a new mindset of not decreasing your self-worth then, IMHO, all these new rules may not be needed. In my case, when needed I have worked long hours to get the project over the hump but tried, sometimes successfully to not make checking my email automatic. I have not been a stickler all the time but just like with any good habit, if you fall off the wagon then the sooner you get back on it the better you will be.
Thanks for reading and have a great day!