A week into 2017, I expressed my desire to move to Paris. It didn’t make sense to anyone who heard about it why I had that sudden urge to do so. Despite the fact that I had earlier mentioned several times that I would love to revisit Paris, it was for different reasons. I have been interested in going to the Louvre museum which we could not tour on our last trip, and I wanted to explore more of the city, to see the spots we had missed out. But relocating permanently was altogether a different issue.
Fashion and elegance, thy name is Paris! But I’m nowhere close to being a fashion diva. A friend teased me, saying that even though Paris is raved about as one of the most romantic cities, it was perhaps a little too late for someone like me, leaping towards 50, to explore that option. Moreover, she added that candlelight dinners with gifts and roses could be arranged in any locale to create the perfect ambience. Could it be the craving for classic French desserts? I am notorious for having a sweet tooth, but croissants, eclairs, fig tarts, and chocolate mousse can’t possibly tempt me to pack everything and move to a different country!
Well no one figured out that what motivated me to move was triggered by a new French law that has gone into effect since January 1 of this year. According to this piece of legislation, employees have the “right to disconnect” themselves from phone calls and emails outside of regular business hours. The rationale behind this law is centered around the premise that there needs to be a boundary between an employee’s work commitments and personal time. All thanks to digital communication, it has been felt that attending work-related calls at night, weekends, and vacations has been infringing on one’s ability to spend time with family. This has added to stress levels of employees. On the other hand, it is perceived that an individual who gets a break from the continuous flow of calls and mails during his off time comes back to work fresh and invigorated, and that increases productivity in the workplace.
No points for guessing, my appreciation for this law stems from seeing the man in my house doing something that I’m not quite fond of. It’s not a pleasant experience to see him, eyes glued on the iPhone, checking and replying to e-mails at a restaurant when we are out for a dinner. On Christmas day, we had watched a movie, and he loved it too much and commented that it was after a very long time that a film could keep him so deeply engaged. Well the fact is, it has nothing to do with lousy films being produced all the time. I have enjoyed quite a few good ones. He has not been able to enjoy because of the divided attention he has been giving to the work of art. On several occasions while watching a movie at home during the weekends, I catch him sneaking in the laptop and replying to office mails. And then there have been instances when he has accepted the “supposedly” 2 minute calls stretching to 20 during family vacations! So it does not need a genius to figure out why I’m all for the “right to disconnect” law.
Like all laws, this one undoubtedly will have loopholes too. It has come under scrutiny, and taking into account the fact that France’s workforce is one of the most regulated ones among developed countries, a doubt has risen as to whether the law really aims to ease employee stress or if it is simply one of those bureaucratic gimmicks. There is serious doubt as to whether this law would be applicable to most other developed nations. What about the tag of emergency situations that need to be handled? Will all employees be ethical enough not to take the law for granted and hence distinguish between trivial matters and those that need immediate attention?
I believe in sincerity and a strong work ethic. I am not the least in favor of anyone not having a sense of responsibility and giving a 100% best to a job that helps to earn his or her bread. But I do support the idea that we also need to draw a clear line between office hours and family time. I’m not alone in this school of thought. Many feel that the cell phone buzzing all the time with official calls has indeed become a nuisance. However, there is no way out to avoid the ring when duty calls. So what do we do in the meantime, while new laws (if at all) like the ones in France are crafted?
The perks of being a Parisian are infinite. The excellent package includes the exotic French cuisines, the beautiful landscapes around the river Seine, and the magnificent architecture of the city, not to forget the 5 week annual vacation leave and 35 hour workweeks! So even though it may not be all that feasible, it doesn’t hurt to bask in the glory of the moment and at least DREAM of moving to Paris!!!