France already has a strictly enforced 35 hour work. Now, French workers are getting even more assistance with establishing a work-life balance in the form of a new “right to disconnect” law that requires companies with 50 or more employees to grant their workers the right to not answer emails outside of regular work hours.

The "digital leash"

There's widespread agreement that boundary between work time and personal time has been eroded in the digital age, with the ability of companies to email and text their employees at any time – and expect an answer – being described by some as a “digital leash.”

The law, which took effect January 1st, does not include penalties for companies who fail to follow it. It is expected to cover a little more than half of the working population. A significant number of French companies employ only 49 people in order to avoid the country’s workplace laws, which apply to companies with 50 or more employees.

Emails and stress

Studies like this one have shown that checking email less frequently reduces stress. Another study, cited in a Business News Daily article found that productivity is actually weakened by expectations that employees will answer work-related emails during non-working hours. Additionally, preventing employees from fully disengaging from work can cause chronic stress and emotional exhaustion, according to the study’s authors.

Experts doubt that the U.S. will ever enact a law similar to the French digital disconnect one.