Work adverse French are working too hard

hard at work
Health warning needed: French person super hard at work

Did you hear about that article in the Guardian about the French government passing a law that means workers are not allowed to do any work after 6 pm? Except it’s not really true and workers will most likely continue to do their job much as they did before. And in a what is the world coming to moment, Buzzfeed of all places clarified what the Guardian failed to convey correctly.

The idea is that employers will be required to make sure staff disconnect from their smartphones and computers outside of working hours so that they don’t spend their entire evenings replying to work emails and answering requests from their bosses. It sounds pretty good to me in theory, although it does raise a couple of questions.

For the one thing, it seems to imply that French workers do too much work. The earth laughs in their face, because everybody knows about the lazy-arse French and their 35-hour weeks. But that’s just a bad stereotype, bad bad bad. True in some places of course, but not overall. What it does say however, which is unfortunately not remotely a stereotype, is that the French are really out of touch with the rest of the world, or completely brainwashed or both, and that bringing a thing like this in the middle of a recession, just, what are you doing? The French government is SO good at the whole ostrich head in the sand thing and has form for focusing on tangential things instead of dealing with more pressing problems, like I don’t know, the fact that France’s economic recovery is deathly slow. I know this deal is a drop in the ocean of crapness that is the current economic crisis but please look outside your frontiers with something other than dismissiveness and get some awareness!

Secondly, this agreement seems quite impossible to regulate. Wouldn’t the right thing to do is to make the employers responsible for themselves to not send work emails after 6 pm? There is such a thing as a ‘delay delivery’ button in Outlook. Also some people actually like to work a lot; even the French, and do we really want to stop them?

Ultimately, it’s as much about self-regulation than it is about expectations. If you’re in a high-powered job, you work outside of office hours and get paid accordingly. If you want to, you can even turn off your phone and your work laptop, and you don’t need a legal agreement to do so.

In any case, I doubt anything will change in practice. What do you think?



2 thoughts on “Work adverse French are working too hard

  1. I worked in France for 12 years and for 4 of those years I taught English in French companies there, and I discovered that some companies are very good with the 35 hour week, whilst others are terrible. I also worked for a great American company in France that applied the 35 hour week to the letter by giving us extra holiday and I used to end up with 10 weeks holiday a year for working 9am-6pm days, it was heaven! But for every company that is like this there is another company that is all about getting its money’s worth out of you and is slave labour-esque, with complete disregard for a 35 hour week. For me the difference in France is that you don’t really run the risk of losing your job if you don’t put in the extra hours – in the UK if you don’t pull your weight it is far easier to lose your job/not be promoted/get bonuses/pay rises etc. In France it is next to impossible to fire an employee and promotions/pay rises etc tend to be based on age and length of time at the company so how you work doesn’t really matter. Until that is changed there will always be those who work and those who don’t bother. In my opinion.

    1. You make a very good point about employee protection. It’s the one thing that puts me right off going back to France, that I could be working with and under people who do little or bad work and cannot be challenged or removed because of the system.

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