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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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    Last Updated on November 5, 2018

    20 Best Places to Work for a Great Career in 2018

    20 Best Places to Work for a Great Career in 2018

    Looking for a job? There’s no doubt to the fact you will want to work with a company that appreciates you for who you are.

    Well, good news. The labor market today is one that has peened up with more opportunities for advancement and personal employee improvement. This is partly due to the fact that a lot of companies have been made to understand the value of their biggest assets: the employees.

    To wit, here’s a list of companies- across a wide array of industries- that have been able to develop working environments that are healthy and accommodating to workers.

    Take a look at these 20 best place to work for a great career:

    1. Salesforce, San Francisco, California,

      Salesforce is in the information technology business and the company ranks highest due to their commitment to learning and innovation. They are ready to try new things and everyone with a new idea is always welcome to share it at the company. The company has also been known to exhibit an exceptional approach to alignment.

      Find out more about careers in Salesforce

      2. Wegmans Food Markets Inc.,Rochester, New York

        Based in Rochester, New York, employees have been known to enjoy a sense of purpose from working here. The company has been able to achieve an optimal level of engagement across all working tiers and they’ve been able to achieve great things together. They even do deliveries.

        Find out more about careers in Wegmans

        3. Ultimate Software, Weston, Florida

          Employees get amazing benefits here but that’s not the only reason why this place is so awesome to work. Whenever there is a need or a death of an Ultipeep or any of other family members, the company shows love and support like no other.

          Find out more about careers in Ultimate Software

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          4.The Boston Consulting Group, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

            Development is at the center of anything that goes on here. The business is about people and employees are the company’s biggest asset. Employees are able to challenge the status and also leave impacts on clients.

            Find out more about careers in The Boston Consulting Group

            5. Edward Jones, St. Louis, Missouri

              Edward Jones is admired for their ability to acknowledge history without being mired down by it. The company builds on a solid foundation but there is also a level of flexibility that allows for innovation.

              Find out more about careers in Edward Jones

              6. Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, San Francisco, California

                Kimpton is a trendsetter in the hospitality industry. The company always strives to try something different and that perspective is welcomed there at all times. Enjoy the weekends with luxury rooms, conformable mattress, furnished and well dressed service staff. A great opportunity for job seekers.

                Find out more about careers in Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants

                7. Workday, Pleasanton, California

                  Newbies will find no issues with feeling welcome and at home here as this has always been a core culture component of the IT giant. Everyone is treated like family and this fosters a sense of oneness.

                  Find out more about careers in Workday

                  8. Genentech, South San Francisco, California

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                    Here, employees are encouraged to be themselves. There is a feeling of care, safety, and acceptance that you get here that you can’t get at many firms. The development of an all-inclusive environment has always been foundational.

                    Find out more about careers in Genetech

                    9. Deloitte, New York, New York

                      Deloitte is one of the biggest professional service providers in the world, noted for their focus on constant learning, development and improvement. They invest in their employees and are concerned about their well being.

                      Find out more about careers in Deloitte

                      10. Baird, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

                        Baird is a financial services provide that is known for adopting a “no asshole policy’ which guides the way people relate with and respect each other, regardless of their position on the company’s hierarchy.

                        Find out more about careers in Baird

                        11. Quicken Loans, Detroit, Michigan

                          At Quicken Loans, the views and opinions of everyone are respected and heard. The organization is revered for the amount of investment they put in their team members and everyone looks for ways to grow and be better.

                          Find out more about careers in Quicken Loans

                          12. Capital One, Mclean, Florida

                            Capital One has adopted a culture that encourages employees to take risks and try new things. They foster a healthy work-life balance and associates are challenged to live better lives.

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                            Find out more about careers in Capital One

                            13. Cooley LLP, Palo Alto, California

                              Cooley LLP is a law firm known for their ability to care about the company culture and being able to develop a working environment that is empowering and fun. Cooley is known to go for the best when it comes to their employees, regardless of the occasion.

                              Find out more about careers in Cooley LLP

                              14. Southern Ohio Medical Center, Portsmouth, Ohio

                                The medical center has been known for their propensity to delegate so much to their employees, thereby providing them with the ability to grow and learn on the job. In the end, you get a workplace that is all-engaging and super fun.

                                Find out more about careers in Southern Ohio Medical Center

                                15. American Express, New York, New York

                                  American Express is a firm that celebrates wins, no matter how small. Everyone is made to share the same attitude towards service and the people they are to serve, thereby making people care about what they do.

                                  Find out more about careers in American Express

                                  16. Adobe Systems Inc., San Jose, California

                                    The culture at Adobe Systems is one that encourages employees to develop their own ideas and get a strong viewpoint. As opposed to encouraging competition, work-life balance is fostered everywhere here.

                                    Find out more about careers in Adobe Systems Inc.

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                                    17. The Cheesecake Factory Inc., Calabasas, California

                                      The Cheesecake Factory rewards dedication and hard work. Promotions come pretty easy, and there is always space for guidance to develop your experience and skills.

                                      Find out more about careers in The Cheesecake Factory Inc.

                                      18. Sap America, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania

                                        If you’re looking for a new career path, SAP might be the best bet for you. The company is adept at recognizing value and transferable skills. And you can always look for a new path while maintaining your employment.

                                        Find out more about careers in Sap America

                                        19. NVIDIA Corporation, Santa Clara, California

                                          NVIDIA is known for looking after even the smallest of things. With even a “pets allowed” policy this company accepts you for who you are, and helps you to work within your personality. Advancement is also fostered, and you are able to collaborate effectively.

                                          Find out more about careers in NVIDIA

                                          20. KPMG LLP, New York, New York

                                            Communication and progressive collaboration are the foundation of this company’s workforce treatment. Regardless of the level you are, someone is always at the ready to help and the company rewards extra effort with gratitude.

                                            Find out more about careers in KPMG LLP

                                            All in all, it’s safe to say that you will be able to find somewhere to apply your skills (whatever they are) that is all inclusive and highly accommodative. Companies today are being made to understand how much they can get when they treat their employees right and this has opened the door to an encouraging work environment for all.

                                            Happy job hunting!

                                            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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