In France, where the unemployment rate is chronically fixed at around 10%, the Socialist government has found a new way to interfere in the marketplace. It has just decreed “a right to disconnect.” All workers now have the right to ignore company emails when they are not on the job.
It will give them more time to connect with their friends on Facebook and to frequent Pornhub. Leave it to the French.
Do you think that the right to disconnect will make the economy run more efficiently? Will it help businesses to coordinate their activities? What happens when something goes wrong while everyone is off enjoying their leisure?
As it happens, this “right” is really an obligation. You do not have the right to do otherwise than to obey the diktat. You didn't think that this was about freedom, did you? NPR describes it:
Companies with more than 50 employees will be obligated to set up hours — normally during the evening and weekend — when staff are not to send or respond to emails.
Call it the incommunicado rule; no one is allowed to communicate about any business matter outside of business hours. We await information about whether or not employees are allowed to use the telephone to call each other. Also, how can anyone enforce this law? What happens if people use private email accounts? Will this law function like a French tax system that has made evading taxes into a national sport?
I do not need to tell you that the well-intentioned French are basing the law on the fact that all of those extra emails cause stress. And we cannot have that. No one seems to care whether a company will be running more efficiently and effectively and whether it will be more competitive in the world market when everyone is tuned out for most of the week. What if your international competitors are not as dumb as you? What if they work more hours and are always available when something goes wrong? How will this law contribute to competitiveness?
Obviously, it’s a dumb idea. It comes to us from a nation that prides itself on its ideas. Like the compulsory 35 hour work week. According to that law you do not have the right to work more than 35 hours a week. The reasoning was simple: if you work fewer hours your company will have to hire more people to do the job. Thus employment will increase.
Unfortunately, the policy has done nothing to move the unemployment rate… largely because it is simply too expensive to hire people and France. And once you do hire them it’s nearly impossible to fire them. French workers have been marching in the streets against changes—proposed by Socialist government—that would make it easier to fire workers.
The net effect of all this well-intentioned meddling in the marketplace is that the best and the brightest of France’s young people have moved to London. Where they do not have a 35 hour work week, where they do not have rules for using email after hours, and where the bureaucracy and the tax code are vastly more congenial. Literally hundreds of thousands of the most capable French young people are now living in London.
The other consequence is that the man who is most likely to become the next president of France, Francois Fillon, is running as a Thatcherite conservative… what the French, with customary Gallic contempt… call a neoliberal.
Now, Grant Cardone writes on CNBC that the French government has turned its citizens into a nation of slackers. It has bought the concept of work/life balance, and has used it to undermine business and to compromise everyone’s prospect for career advancement.
After all, work/life balance is sucker bait. It will be the epitaph on the tombstone of no small number of dead careers.
Besides, Cardone points out, if you have a middle class income you do not need work/life balance. You need more money. You do not need comfort. You need financial freedom. Leave it to the business press to speak a truth that everyone can understand.
One must note that the concept of work/life balance was designed to get men out of the marketplace and into the home, where they can help with housework. It’s another scheme to equalize the tasks performed by men and women. The right to disconnect will not only undermine a man’s career prospects and cause his company to run less efficiently. It will make him a better homemaker. No one ever says this, but we are among friends… right?
As for the burnout that the French fear, Cardone suggests that people burn out because they have found no purpose in their work. One might add that they might feel burned out because they have been deprived of their freedom to choose when to work and not to work. All of that government interference, all of those great vacations, it demoralizes you. I need not mention that France offers the most generous vacation package of any nation. It prides itself on its ability to enjoy leisure, not on its ability to be productive. If that does not depress you, nothing will.
You do better to stop thinking about how many hours you can take off from work, Cardone adds. You should think of what you can contribute and, I would add, how you can gain pride from being part of a good business.
In the old days they used to call it “sloth.” Today we are less theologically inclined and call it: laziness. To Cardone, that is the bottom line. The French are lazy.
Laziness is an entitlement concept accepted by the middle class that crushes any chance you have of greatness.
The French have just legislated laziness as a right. Apparently the 35 hours employees there suffer through is too much and they can't be bothered with any work-related business emails over their long weekends.
And French entitlement has gotten a foothold in the U.S. Many people here believe the government should take care of them.
Take a moment and think about why you must have five days to work and take the weekend off regardless of your personal finances. If I were making $60,000 a year, I would not be content working eight hours at a job that I leave at 5:00 pm.
You have to get your hustle on to get your financial freedom. Of course it's not just about the hustle, you need , too. But the biggest obstacle of many is the entitlement mentality.
Rather than seeking comfort and leisure, you should be trying to achieve greatness. Other management gurus, like Peter Drucker, have suggested as much. Aristotle certainly agreed. Achievement brings a state of happiness that is quite different from the one gained by indulging in decadent pursuits.
In America, people are getting duped into thinking that they ought to be seeking work/life balance. They get duped into thinking that happiness means flourishing. They get duped into thinking that they should not be seeking greatness, but should get on the road to meaning… thus to telling cute stories about themselves.
Cardone is correct to warn people against the right to laziness. It points the way toward mediocrity. However meaningful your life, however much you think you are flourishing, you do better to work harder and to achieve greatness.