Family

Why we got obsessed with France's fake email ban.

We need better boundaries between work and play.

You probably saw a bunch of these headlines cropping up recently: “France bans work e-mail after 6 p.m.

French law makes weekend work emails illegal…

France Is About to Make After-Hours Work Email Illegal


France Has Banned Work Emails on the Weekends, And So Should We

Even if you didn’t buy that, more grounded stories were promising something that still sounded pretty great.

Allegedly, French President Francois Hollande’s administration had introduced new labor legislation that would give workers the “right to disconnect” after office hours.

According to the reports, companies with more than 50 employees would be legally required to draft “policies of conduct” that stipulate when work email could be sent or answered after normal business hours (which, for most people, is nights, weekends, and vacations).

To put it simply, after a French employee finished a full day at the office, their employers couldn’t require them to read or respond to any work emails until they got back to their desks the next day.

Can you imagine the freedom!?

GIF via "Broad City."

The story went viral for months, but it turns out it wasn’t 100% correct.

Apparently, the law only applies to employees who work hourly, and it doesn’t even kick in until after they’ve worked a 13-hour shift. That’s a far cry from “banning work emails after 6 p.m.”

The dream of a government really tackling work-life balance slowly died, and The Economist even issued this eulogy on April 14.

There’s a bigger question, though: Why did this French “right to disconnect” policy strike such a nerve with Americans?

Benoit Hamon’s quote for the BBC explains it well:

"All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant. Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash — like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails — they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”

Sound like you or anyone you know?

Right now, Americans are working more hours than ever before.

A 2014 Gallup poll found that white-collar workers employed full-time in the U.S. were working an average of 47 hours per week, dwarfing the office time of their peers in every other industrialized nation, including Japan!

Another poll that same year found that a third of these workers frequently checked their email after hours, too, so their long workdays didn’t end even after leaving their cubicles.

Meanwhile, employees in France enjoy a 35-hour week with sweet, sweet overtime pay guaranteed if they work more than that (although exceptions to this rule were just legalized).

How I imagine life in France.

With smartphones and email, we can now be productive even after we leave the office.

But this revolutionary level of freedom is also eroding protective boundaries ... boundaries we didn’t even know we needed.

Jennifer M. Grygiel, assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University, studies the impact that email has on American work culture.

She says: “The trend toward mobile means that communications are tied to people regardless of their location. The workforce is now always on because of the connectivity of devices and people. Without guidance from the government, or employers, people could technically work around the clock. Humans are giving away more and more of their time for free because of technology.”

And tech entrepreneurs like Alex Moore, the founder of Boomerang, are finding out just how badly people want to take their schedules and personal time back from email.

He explains, "We've had dozens of customers write in to let us know that they signed up for Boomerang to try to implement [their own 'right to disconnect' policies].”

GIF via Rihanna's "Work."

Plus, it turns out that the efficiency and convenience of email might actually be slowing down our productivity.

Even with all that extra time we’re spending working (and burning out), we’re not getting very much done.

According to Diane Passage, a life coach based in New York City and fan of the French measure, “When a work-day has flexible parameters, there is a lack of urgency to get tasks completed by a reasonable hour. [However,] there is improved productivity when deadlines are in place, and there is a sense of accomplishment when deadlines are met.”

Americans clearly yearn for the “right to disconnect,” or at least some good boundaries between work and play.

But for now, it may be up to each of us to work on attaining it in lieu of government intervention.

So channel that joie de vivre and remember that your time outside of work should be yours and yours alone.

Vive la révolution!

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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