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Should We Adopt France’s New “Unplug After 6 p.m.” Law?

Should We Adopt France’s New “Unplug After 6 p.m.” Law?

How often do you check your work email?

If you’re like me–and a lot of people these days–the answer is too often.

I confess that I check my work email after hours and on the weekend. If I see something coming in that I can respond to at the moment, I do. So even if I’m “relaxing,” I am working. My mind is always at least half-plugged into my job.

That’s why the news coming out of France is an interesting topic of discussion. While the initial headline (“France Outlaws Work Email After 6 p.m.”) is not quite true, it is still a bold statement in favor of unplugging and work/life balance.

Should we, in the U.S., follow suit and unplug after the workday is over? Can, and should, we limit the hours we spend working, either at the office or while thumbing through our inbox while waiting at the post office?

Working smarter, not harder

One of the popular reactions to France’s move was a figurative roll of the eyes. Some folks were not surprised France did this. As the stereotype goes, French workers spend most of their time sipping wine and eating baguettes. That’s why their productivity, at the individual level as well as a country, is so far below America’s. Right?

Let’s look at the facts. The graph below (from Business Insider) shows the average number of work hours per year for a full-time employee in the U.S. (blue), France (red), and Germany (green). Germany is in there because it’s one of the United States’ fiercest competitor in the race for most productive industrial country in the world.

usvsfrenchvsgermany

    As you can see, the United States is currently leading the pack with the average American worker spending over 1,700 hours at work a year. Meanwhile, French workers spend around 1,450, and the German worker spends slightly over 1,400 hours at work a year.

    Notice how the American domination of the “Burning the Midnight Oil” race (they get medals and everything) is recent. A few decades ago, the French were putting in many more hours than their American counterparts, but that has changed with stricter labor laws.

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    This graph is definitive proof that all those extra hours are making the American economy the burliest in the land by leaps and bounds, right?

    Cool your jets, engine. Not quite.

    Look at the GDP per Capita (productivity or output per worker) for the same three countries over the last thirty years.

    GDP per Capita in 1980

    US: $12,180

    France: $12, 214

    Germany: $11,746

    GDP per Capita in 1990

    US: $23,038

    France: $21,359

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    Germany: $21,584

    GDP per Capita in 2011

    US: $48,112

    France: $42, 379

    Germany: $44,021

    While Americans spend nearly 20% more of their time at work than the Germans and French, they only have an 8.5% edge over them in productivity.

    There are a variety of reasons for this: how specialized the work in each country is, the average level of education, etc. But one thing is clear: an increase of work hours does not increase productivity on an arithmetic, much less exponential, scale. There is a simple reason why: we are talking about human beings.

    Unlike machines or software, we can’t go on and on without suffering from fatigue or wear. We add stress to our bodies and minds throughout the day. This is called the allostatic load.

    Being plugged in to work (via emails, calls, or having it on your mind) is wear and tear on your entire self. After a certain point, it starts to affect your productivity. Each extra hour at work has diminishing returns. Fatigue, lack of concentration, and loss of functional memory set in.

    Ironically, not working is one of the most important secrets to doing great work.

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    Research shows that taking an email vacation can significantly reduce your stress and increase your concentration.

    From a University of California – Irvine study:

    “We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress.”

    Taking a work email vacation lets your internal microprocessor cool down. You’re turning off the hum from the part of your brain still thinking about deadlines and memos. Do this, and the next time you re-engage with work, you’ll be fresh and focused, ready to do great work.

    Every time you work into the wee hours of the night, sending emails or finishing a project, you are risking doing poor work. Your body and mind are tired, so mistakes are likelier to happen. If you want to do work you’ll be proud of, you have to find ways of working smarter, not harder.

    Warning: cliff ahead

    Our brains are amazing. They can calculate, visualize, and operate with tremendous power. But they have limits. These limits don’t just affect your productivity, but your health.

    Quite literally, working long hours can kill you.

    A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology combined numerous studies, and found a simple, irrefutable truth:

    “Spending too long in the office resulted in a 40 to 80 percent greater chance of heart disease compared to an eight hour work day.”

     

    “Doing more than 11 hours of work a day raised heart disease risks by 67 percent.”

    Another study review listed all of the proven links between working long hours and your health:

    “[It] shows that long work hours are indeed associated with adverse health, in particular cardiovascular disease, disability retirement, subjectively measured poor health, and fatigue.”

     

    “The most interesting studies show that working more than 11 hours a day is associated with a three times higher risk of myocardial infarction and about a four times higher risk of noninsulin-dependent diabetes”

    This is no longer just an issue of whether you want to do great work, but whether you want to do this to your health?

    The move made in France is bold. It’s potentially revolutionary, and may, hopefully, set the tone for other countries. But it makes you wonder why it had to get to that point. Why did we need something official to limit us to the 40-hour work week when these nasty facts linking productivity and health have been confirmed time and again for decades?

    Maybe it’s custom, or maybe it’s naivete. Whatever it is, there’s no good excuse to ignore it anymore. Ask yourself this question: do you want to do very good work for a long time? If you said yes, then give yourself a break and step away from the smartphone.

     

    How do you achieve work life balance? Tell me in the comments below.

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    Featured photo credit: Chris Chan via flickr.com

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    How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

    How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

    Does it ever feel like the things you want to accomplish always end up on the back burner? If the answer to that question is “yes,” you’re not alone. Only about 33% of people consistently work toward their goals. In some cases, their goals may seem too lofty to accomplish, or else they aren’t sure how to make a plan for them.

    If you don’t come up with concrete steps to take toward your goals, they’ll remain dreams. There’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer, but being able to turn your dreams into goals you can realize will help you lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

    Luckily, you can realize almost any dream when you harness the right goal-setting methods.

    In this article, I’ll show you how to achieve goals and get closer you success.

    1. Break your dreams down into specific and measurable steps

    We couldn’t talk about goal-setting without mentioning SMART goals.

    SMART goals are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related.

    Specific and measurable steps are so important because if we don’t know what our target it, how can we ever hit it?

    Take all those beautiful dreams you have for yourself and make them into things you can actually do. If you want to be an entrepreneur, for example, a step toward realizing your dream might be researching what you’ll need to start your business.

    Find out more tips about utilizing SMART goals here:

    How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

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    2. Have at least one clearly defined goal for every interest and role in your life

    It’s so easy to become complacent or stagnate. We often think that our careers are the only places where we need to set goals, but we aren’t only what we do.

    To make the most of your life, take the approach that you’re always learning and growing in everything you do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well after all.

    Set goals whether you’re sponsoring an activity for your child, taking up guitar lessons or trying to prove your worth at work.

    You’ll notice that this approach forces you to constantly develop new skills. It can also be fulfilling to put more focus and value into all areas of your life— not just the ones related to our careers.

    3. Align your goals with your life’s mission, purpose and passion

    Take the opportunity to do some soul-searching. What is it that you want to do with this precious life of yours?

    Anything that conflicts with your life’s purpose is bound to cause discontent. Staying in a bad relationship, doing a job that goes against your values, or maintaining the status quo just because it’s comfortable are not options for you.

    Thinking about your goals in this way can help you eliminate things in your life that don’t serve you. This frees up mental space that you can use to do the things you care about the most.

    Many of us struggle to find the time to work on our goals, but this strategy enables you to make more time.

    4. Create goals that ignite your spirit and inspire you to take action

    If you can’t be fired up about your goals from the start, they might not be good goals for you.

    The road to success is often tough. You’re going to have times when you might feel tired or discouraged.

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    You need to feel inspired enough that you’ll be able to overcome obstacles as you encounter them.

    If what you’re doing motivates you to be the greatest version of yourself, you’ll be much more resilient.

    5. Write down all your goals in specific, measurable detail

    This is your road map for what success will look like. The more you define what you want the finished product to be, the greater the chance that you’ll reach that vision.

    When you write down your goals, you’re creating a document that you can revisit to make sure you’re on track.

    When you’re in the middle of trying to achieve a big goal, it can be hard to see what’s working for you. The things you write in this step will help you stay on-message as you take your goals out of your mind and into the real world.

    Don’t just write down your goals and stash them away in a folder somewhere. Take the extra step to put them somewhere where you’ll see them.[1]

    If you have too many goals to post on your desk, write a summary or choose one or two steps to work on for the day. Just seeing them will keep them in the front of your mind.

    6. Commit to hitting each of your targets without exception

    You wouldn’t have created the target if you didn’t think it was necessary. Hold yourself accountable for taking the steps to succeed.

    You can always adapt your strategy or break your targets into smaller steps if you find that they aren’t attainable as you originally wrote them.

    Hitting even the smallest target is cause for a celebration. It’s a step in the positive direction. Your success will make you crave more success.

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    We often make excuses when we get tired or overwhelmed. Take away the option to make excuses. You will only be satisfied with the best effort from yourself.

    7. Share your goals with others to motivate each other

    There’s something so powerful about people sharing their goals and dreams with one another. Doing so gives voice to some part of us that could remain hidden (and therefore never be accomplished).

    When other people know about your goals, they can cheer you on and hold you accountable. When people share their vision with you, you can do the same for them.

    This strategy is particularly beneficial when you’re trying to develop healthy habits. Post about your workout on social media, or do a healthy eating challenge with your best friend. You’ll be less likely to slack when temptation arises, and you’ll probably encourage someone else to reach for their goals too.

    8. Set a series of daily, weekly and long-term goals, complete with starting times and deadlines

    Many goals never reach realization simply because the goal-setter doesn’t check their progress. People tend to forget what they set out to do, or their goal gets crowded out by other obligations.

    Forcing yourself to revisit your goals at regular intervals breaks them into smaller steps and it reminds you to think about them.

    Giving yourself regular deadlines for smaller tasks related to your goals also helps you reflect on your strategy. You’ll figure out what works for you, whether your timeline is realistic, and whether or not you need additional help to stay on track.

    In addition, celebrating small wins helps you stay motivated. Here’s how:

    How To Celebrate Small Wins To Achieve Big Goals

    9. Take 10 minutes every day to imagine how great it will feel to achieve your goals

    Visualization is such a powerful tool. Some of the most successful athletes, celebrities and business people take time each day to think about how success looks and feels for them.[2] Imagining that feeling of satisfaction can be a great motivator.

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    When you do meet your goals, take some time to be grateful. Thank yourself for showing up and doing the work. Be grateful when the stars align properly to help you advance to the next step.

    It’s not just getting to the destination of your goals that matters. How you take the journey is important too.

    10. Take an action step toward reaching your goals every day

    Your goals can easily get buried in the hustle and the bustle. Even the smallest step in the right direction is still moving you forward.

    Keep chipping away at the work every day and before long, you’ll start to see those dreams come to life.

    Maybe you didn’t start your business today but you designed the logo that’s going to go on your website and business cards. Doing that task well is going to help you so much in the long run.

    Concrete actions day by day draw your dreams out of obscurity and into the realm of possibility.

    Change begins today

    Dreams can inspire and overwhelm us. By turning our dreams into goals that we can work toward, we increase our chances of success. Things that once seemed impossible are suddenly within reach.

    It’s time to start turning your dreams into goals and your goals into realities.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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