France’s Right to Disconnect and the Freedom of Email

France's Right to Disconnect and the Freedom of Email

Just a quick follow-up post on the French “email ban” that we covered here last week and that has been generating a ton of press.

Alissa Johannsen Rubin‘s piece in The New York Times—”France Lets Workers Turn Off, Tune Out and Live Life” offers some interesting insights. In addition to covering everything from divorce to pesticides and plastic bags (it all makes sense in context—go read it!) Rubin writes this of France’s newly enacted “Right to Disconnect”:

“Though ridiculed in some quarters as a ban on work-related email after hours, it is not quite that. But it is born of the enlightened view that it is actually beneficial for people not to work all the time, and that workers have the right to occasionally draw the line when their employer’s demands intrude on evenings at home, treasured vacations or Sundays with friends and family.”

Rubin’s nuance here is valuable. Though widely covered as an email ban, France’s new law does not in fact “ban” email. Instead, the law calls for workers to be able to ignore email during off hours.

From our perspective at Timyo, this is great. We are all about work-life boundaries, and Timyo is designed to take full advantage of email’s native asynchronicity. The whole point of email is that the sender and recipient don’t need to be aligned timewise. Phone calls, texts, Slack…any medium that requires a repeated back-and-forth exchange needs the participants to all be available at or around the same time. Not so with email.

If, say, the boss wants to send a late-night email, that’s totally fine. It’s only a problem if the default of that company’s culture is “automatic ASAP“, meaning employees and coworkers feel like they have to be ready to respond immediately, even late at night. But as long as it’s understood that emails can be responded to on the recipients’ own schedules, there’s no problem.

Timyo makes this even clearer by allowing senders to quickly and easily set expectations for when—or even if—they’d like a reply. This eliminates the guesswork and potential stress for the recipient of trying to mind-read the sender: “When does she want it? The email doesn’t say…crap, I’d better respond right away just to be safe! Who needs sleep, anyway?”

For us, “the right to disconnect” makes a ton of sense, as long as it promotes the flexibility of individuals in setting their own schedules in the way that works best for them. Some people love sending emails in off hours (it works for Elon Musk!), while others want to leave work at the office and are out the door at 5 sharp every single day.

The beauty of email—and especially email with Timyo—is that all parties have the freedom to communicate whenever they want, and also the freedom from having to be available when they don’t want to be. And more freedom for all is hardly a bad thing.

Lastly, I think it’s worth noting that I’ve had some personal experience with a French model of working, because our very own cofounders, Fabrice and Alfred, are French. It’s no surprise that it is France pioneering this “right to disconnect”, as it is a country often associated with an appreciation of life as more than just an occasion to head to the office.

I would say the same mindset that led to this legislation is what inspired Fabrice and Alfred to create Timyo in the first place, long before the law. Based on my own experience working with a company aligned with the values of work-life boundaries and life outside the office, I can only say:

Vive la France!

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