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  • Writer's pictureScott Behson

The French Know How to Live

Nick and I in Nice (2005)

Nick and I in Nice (2005)

35-hour  work weeks. No calls after work. 2-hour lunch breaks. Red wine. Good food. The Riviera. The French know how to live…

Many French workers have the legal right not to be contacted after they leave the office. (A quick side note, The Working Dad’s Survival Guide still going strong as the #1 New Release in Job Markets & Advice! Get yours today)

This is a place that still believes in half-day closing and taking lunch breaks. This is a country that has a very different attitude towards work… France is the only country in the world to have adopted a 35-hour working week and this is strictly enforced. So much so that, yesterday, an agreement was signed between bosses and unions representing more than a million white-collar employees that would strike the average British [not to mention us Yanks!- SB] worker as an edict from Cloud Cuckoo Land. It is a legally enforceable deal that means workers should not be contacted once they have left the office. It is as if the smartphone had never been invented (and yes, I know, many of us might hanker for a return to those days). It’s rather ironic that French businesses in the technology sector will not be allowed to urge their employees to check emails once they’ve done their day’s work, and the unions will from now on be measuring what they are neatly calling “digital working time”. How quaint these ideas seem to us. Heaven only knows what the average British working week would be if digital hours were taken into consideration. No matter what time of the day or night, whatever we may be doing in our leisure hours, we are only a ping away from being back at a virtual desk. I rarely have dinner with anyone these days who isn’t attached to their smartphone, waiting for a pause in the conversation so they can check their emails. Not good for digestion, not good for quality of life.

For many of us, especially those who prefer to segment work away from the rest of our lives, this sounds like heaven.  However, for many career-oriented integrators, myself very much included, such a strict policy may be too much of a good thing.

I can’t see anything like this happening in the US anytime soon. However, the French policy does give us all an opportunity to think about what we could do in our own lives to unplug from the office every now and then and be more present, more “in the moment” when we have family time. We may even have enough time to enjoy a glass of Bordeaux!

What do you think of the French policy? Of separating work time from family time? Any stories to share? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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