The French Know a Thing or Two About Work-Life Balance

...and we're moving.

Eiffel Tower, Paris
(Image credit: Barry King)

As if we weren't already longing after that French je nais se quoi—what with their effortless style, perfect red pout, and messy yet tamed bedhead locks—the country just passed a game-changing new agreement to enhance work-life balance. In short, French people can now also have a life after 6 p.m.

The country that mandated a 35-hour work week back in 1999 (why haven't we moved there yet?!) started hearing complaints from unions that managers were invading employees' personal time. A new labor agreement, which affects hundreds of thousands of IT employees, requires staffers to turn off their phones, shut down their computers, and digitally unplug after 6 p.m. Je suis jaloux! Moreover, companies found going against the binding labor agreement will be held accountable.

So while we're across the pond pulling late work nights either at home or in the office, just know that your French counterpart is happily drinking a glass of red wine and nibbling on delicious baguettes (while not gaining a single pound). Le sigh.

Though there's no formal regulation preventing your boss from contacting you at odd hours, there are ways to disconnect and keep your sanity without totally going off the radar.

  • Create check-in times. This should be a given, but once you leave work, you're on personal time. Give yourself the opportunity to relax for a few hours and then, if you must, allow yourself a time each night to check your email to make sure nothing urgent requires your attention.
  • Be more productive at work. Instead of spending an hour scrolling through your Facebook feed, use that time to get a head start or complete projects that follow you home from the office. Fridays are really great days to catch up on work you missed that week due to meetings or fire drills.
  • Work hard, but play harder. Go to the gym, take a walk, watch your favorite show, or finally beat level 302 in #CandyCrush. Taking your mind off of work for even 20 minutes can help alleviate fatigue, improve productivity, get your creative juices flowing, and give you some much needed perspective.