‘France bans email after 6pm’ screamed the headlines, triggering a slew of social media activity. But did it? A bit of digging for facts by FVL’s Head of Marketing David Petherick showed that the headlines and story details were more a confirmation of anti-French sentiment than actual facts…
And so David created a blog on LinkedIn, which generated huge interest on Friday and over the weekend, with viewing figures of over 14,200 to date, with 56 comments, and over 700 shares across LinkedIn.
“I picked up a comment on Twitter on Thursday evening from Andy Beal, and did a double take” explained David.
“I had heard of the French story, but had only seen some rather over-the-top headlines. When I saw his tweet, it struck me that there was something unusual going on, in that the story coverage seemed to be very biased and broadly speaking, just “French-bashing”. As the driver of a Peugeot 308 and with many French friends, and friends of other nationalities living in France, I knew there was more to this story than had been seen so far.”
Headlines included “French win right to switch off at home”, “When the French clock off at 6pm they really mean it” and “No emails after 6pm please, we are French” with many commentators apparently taking their cues from the rather fact-light Guardian article.
“I asked Andy for his views via twitter, and on Friday morning, did a bit of digging and fact checking. As I suspected, the headlines were largely written as linkbait, with a strong anti-French bias, so I created a blog over lunch setting the facts straight, and published it around 3pm on LinkedIn.”
Within an hour, the blog had garnered almost two thousand views, and this number rose rapidly as it was shared across the network, and was picked up by LinkedIn editors and featured in two ‘Pulse’ news sections. By late on Friday, LinkedIn also tweeted the headline and a link to the story, and comments and sharing continued. A lot of the comments were very revealing, showing that the underlying issue about work/life balance had not been lost to an intelligent audience, but also revealing that stereotypical attitudes towards the French had indeed got in the way of the facts.
The original articles are a sad piece of journalism. However, overall, I believe we need people (not government) to say enough is enough with working ourselves so much. We keep pushing the levels of technology to get more done…only to make our lives harder in the end with working a majority of our day. If we were as smart as we think we are, we would start using technology to have our work days made easier and our lives more balanced. – Ron Zacchi, MPA
The priority seems to be 1. speed, 2. sensationalism/ controversy (“if it bleeds it leads”) 3. accuracy. – Robert Gaynor
The text of the blog is reproduced below:
Non! France has not banned work emails after 6pm
Reading headlines in the English-speaking press yesterday, it seemed that France’s latest measure to protect its “lazy, striking” workers was to ban them from checking emails after 6pm. Sadly it’s not quite true, and today their Gallic counterparts have tried to put the record straight.
French Flag Photo: francois
Headlines included “French win right to switch off at home”, “When the French clock off at 6pm they really mean it” and “No emails after 6pm please, we are French” with many commentators apparently taking their cues from the Guardian article.
Just in case you weren’t jealous enough of the French already, what with their effortless style, lovely accents and collective will to calorie control, they have now just made it illegal to work after 6pm. Well, sort of,” read the Guardian.
The article was quickly devoured without further fact-checking by media sites from the US to Australia.
Amazement on social media
Anglo social media channels were full of comments and amazement at the thought of their work-shy French counterparts switching off phones, laptops and tablets across the country at 6, to protect their right not to work a single minute more than their jealously protected 35 hours a week.
Once the smartphones were off, French workers, dressed in Breton jerseys, with onions and garlic strung around their necks, would light a Gauloise, head to the nearest brasserie to gorge on foie gras, share a bottle of Beaujolais Villages, and spend the evening exchanging Gallic shrugs at the state of their country’s economy.
Correction in French
But as the web site Slate.fr (Site in French) pointed out on today, there were serious inaccuracies in the English-speaking press’s coverage of the “disconnection agreement”.
“France has not banned workers from sending emails after 6pm” was the simple headline in Slate, pointing out that the agreement, which is not a new law, between federations Syntec and Cinov and the unions CFDT and CGC, only affects around 200,000 people, not the whole of France as some of the headlines would have us believe, or even the “million workers” quoted in the Guardian.
The workers affected are mainly employed in management positions and work outside the framework of a 35-hour week. In fact they work all hours of the day and evening, hence the need for them to be protected.
Slate also points out that the agreement has absolutely no mention of a 6pm cut-off point, in fact there is no ban on workers checking emails after a certain time, just that they should step away from their work email for 11 hours a day.
The reality of the agreement
The reality, as union leader Michel de la Force explains, is that the agreement simply means: “That an employee who does not open his emails on his time off, cannot be criticised.”
Asked to comment about his perceived understanding of the facts after seeing the Anglo press coverage yesterday evening (9:05pm UK time, in case you’re curious), reputation management expert Andy Beal said on Twitter “I’m against regulations for private businesses. The decision should be left to the employer & employee. We live in a global economy now. Remember what happen to BA (sponsored tweet by angry customer) because it was after hours?”
Andy added “I wouldn’t worry about them being able to enforce it, it seems like our government has a hard enough time rolling out a website, let alone tracking my business vs personal calls. ;-)”
- What do you think? Do you check company emails in the evenings – and does your employer expect you to do so, and respond in that timeframe?