Long gone are the days when you could hide from Jehovah's Witnesses by sitting really still on your couch after they rang the doorbell. Now, companies track details about your life and everyone knows you're seven seconds from your email, Twitter, Slack and group texts with family members sharing photos of what they're making for dinner.
But France, the very country that invented joie de vivre, or at least those words, is altering this relationship by taking aim at the negative impacts of being constantly plugged in. A widely unpopular and recently enacted bill contained a much more popular piece of legislation dubbed "e droit de la déconnexion" or "the right to disconnect," which bars companies with 50 or more employees from sending emails after work hours.
“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” French Minister of National Education Benoit Hamon 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.”
Hamon understands the plight of the worker almost as much as the people who made that ice cream hangover cure.
Among the concerns laid out in the law is "the blurring of the borders between private life and professional life." To address this, the law requires companies to put formal policies in place limiting spillover work, particularly with regards to "digital technology." The BBC reports that this will involve what are being called "charters of good conduct" that specify hours, weekends and evenings, when no emails are to be sent or received.
While the majority of the bill remains unpopular, this portion is set to supplant fancy cheese with crusty breads, a willingness to protest about absolutely anything, and Gerard Depardieu jokes as the thing Americans envy most about France.