The French are leading the charge towards email-free evenings and weekends with a labour bill that will restrict out-of-hours working by people who have finished their normal hours. The theory is that this will reduce stress on employees who feel that they have to be ‘on’ at all times. It could also lead to a more productive workforce, as people are likely to be more focused and alert if they have a period of downtime before returning to work.
People who are glued to their tablets and smartphones can certainly lose perspective and think that trivia is so important that it must be attended to immediately; however, what comes first? The demands of the job or their need to feel important?
First of all, they want everyone to know they are working late, so they email their boss. They have nothing of importance to say, of course, which is why so many of the emails sent by junior staff to senior managers after 6.30pm consist of some pointless twaddle agreeing with an earlier email or thanking them for some routine communication. The real text is: “Look at me, I love this job so much that I just can’t bear to go home.”
Co-workers are never left out, of course, and the dreaded ‘cc’ is employed to enormous effect to copy in the whole team, with the subtext: “Hey losers, I’m still here, and yes, I have gone through your desk. Good luck with your appraisal.”
The French are partial to the odd glass of wine with their dinner, as are the Brits, and many of these out-of-hours emails should come with a warning, especially as the night wears on. Many workers will be familiar with the boss who likes to share their thoughts on a topic, with these thoughts becoming increasingly more discursive and less focused in successive emails.
Another factor in evening and weekend emails is, of course, the fact that work-life balance is an utter nightmare for parents with zero interest in Peppa Pig. These parents would vastly prefer to be at work and the soothing refuge of electronic discourse with an adult is a tempting alternative as the umpteenth consecutive hour of cartoons gets under way.
Perhaps what we need is the opposite. Rather than firms boosting their recruitment by advertising email-free weekends, companies that expect employees to be constantly monitoring email even when they are not at work should be named and shamed.
This won’t happen, of course, as such firms make sure they recruit people who want to live, eat and sleep the job. When you scan recruitment ads, the warning signs are companies that talk about ‘not so much a job as a way of life’, for which the subtext may be ‘not so much a salary as a pathetically inadequate reward’.
Email? The French have a word for it; oh, hang on, they don’t. Perhaps this is the problem.
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