Limiting email work hours is improper
By: Amelya Stevenson, M.A., SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
Every time we turn around we have a new H.R. law or wage and hour change to contend with in the workplace. The disruption can create havoc with our business routine and raise anxieties among our employees.
Now, there may be new laws or regulations on the horizon that would be particularly disruptive and that could affect our home routines as well as work. They will have the laudable goal of protecting or improving our employees’ work-life balance.
But whether they would achieve that goal is questionable at best. And if they did, it could be at a high price to our economy.
In May, France enacted legislation meant to enforce what is being referred to as the “right to disconnect.” What this essentially means is if you work for a company in France with 50 or more employees, you will not be able to access your work emails after hours or on the weekends.
Now you may think of France as extreme in its embrace of laws meant to protect workers and their job security and leisure time, often at the expense of their employers. But make no mistake. I have observed the California Legislature for over 30 years as a senior HR leader and have been very involved in advocacy on the state level with pending issues that may impact the California workplace. The current mood in the State Capitol is such that I would not be at all surprised to see our lawmakers take a cue from France.
So would this law infringe on the freedoms we deserve in our country by allowing government to dictate when we can log into our work emails and when we can’t?
Or should we thank France for starting this trend. Apparently, France is recognizing that their workers are negatively impacted by being plugged in all the time. “All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” Benoit Hamon, of the French National Assembly, told the BBC. “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.”
Under the new law, companies are mandated to negotiate formal policies to limit the spillover of work, specifically as it’s related to “digital technology,” into the private lives of employees. This, according to the BBC, will involve companies establishing “charters of good conduct” specifying hours, typically in the evening and weekends, when employees aren’t supposed to send or receive emails.
How would you feel if our government enacted a new law that prevented you from logging into your work emails until Monday?
Depending on your routine and the rhythm of your business, you might find your stress multiplied on Monday.
As the owner of two companies, I would not want to have my state legislature tell me when I should and should not conduct business. I enjoy freedoms as an entrepreneur and one very important one is the right to work according to my clients’ schedule and my professional life. I personally do not want to have the government assert control over my business decisions. And, if our government takes this new law seriously in the United States, would this action really begin to impact what we are as a nation and economic global power by increasing the control that the government has over the workplace, innovation and speed of our economy. It’s irresponsible for government to legislate and tell business owners and employees how to behave and live their lives.
Amelya Stevenson, MA., SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP is a Sacramento Vistage Chair helping business owners make an impact in their business and personal lives in a group environment and President of e-VentExe a full service human resource outsourced consulting firm. And, she has been very involved on the CalSHRM State Board of Human Resources as a volunteer for many years.