Of course French employees will still answer email after 6PM. Are you kidding me?

Of course French employees will still answer email after 6PM. Are you kidding me?


Another week, another ridiculous set of accusations to respond to. When Engadget’s “Paris-based” correspondent phoned in a lazy combination of words that can best be described as the editorial equivalent of a Jackson Pollock-inspired work that replaced paint with fecal matter (yes, that’s throwing shit at a canvas and calling it art), I brushed it off as “uneducated garbage” and told others to do so as well.

But when The Guardian decides to weigh in the subject, I have to draw the line.

For those who are just tuning in, it would seem that, as a result of the recent government switch-up, one of the first initiatives to show how the new administration is working hard to achieve the socialist capitalist agenda, was to reinforce the pacte de responsibilité, a pact between employer and employee. One such addition was to prevent employers from being able to pressure employees to work harder by sending emails after office hours – essentially, the digital equivalent of not receiving a phone call in the middle of dinner from your boss.

Now let me tell you how that affects 99% of France: it doesn’t.

First off, no one finishes work at 6PM. You just don’t. The socially agreed upon time to finish work, at least in companies I’ve interacted with (big & small, tech & non-tech) is roughly 7-7:30PM. You do an 8 hour day, starting at 9AM, and accounting from roughly 2 hours of lunch & breaks throughout the day, and you get 9AM to 7PM as a pretty standard work day.

Yes – the government says stupid things. Sometimes the UK government puts someone in charge of their “teach children to code in schools” initiative who doesn’t know how to code. Sometimes the US Government’s healthcare website (or system as a whole) doesn’t work. Sometimes the French socialist administration makes grandiose statements about taxing the rich, making sure the companies that can’t afford to keep their doors open manage not to fire employees, and sometimes they put a clause in employee contracts that will defend employees against being let go from their job for not answering emails at 9PM.

No – the government can’t ban email after 6PM.

No – French people don’t work 35 hours (the statistical average is 39.5 hours).

No – French working days don’t end at 6PM.

Yes – France does have a very healthy habit of putting in place initiatives that defend employees from being fired for not meeting surpassed expectations of their employees, like answering emails after work hours.

22 Responses

  1. Moi

    I leave my work at 6pm in France, maybe you should look for a better job?

  2. moi2

    Agreed with Moi. I’m an expat working in France and my French colleagues jet at 6 pm sharp (they start at 10 am). As for 2 hour lunch breaks, there you contradict yourself, reinforcing an old and outdated stereotype. who the hell takes 2 hour lunch breaks anymore in France??? You dish out some unduly harsh criticism methinks.

  3. Quentin ADAM (@waxzce)

    Clever Cloud team answer emails 24/24 >_<

  4. Sunny Paris (@noryus)

    So true, if fact in the french private sector there is a lot of pressure on employees, cost of work is high, at least 5 weeks of hollidays per year, so french people work a lot each day to reach a huge production level. Especially in SMBs

  5. french expat

    Looks like you’re fighting hard to prove some stereotypes wrong. As a french expat, i did realize that we tend to work harder than people might think. That being said, is it that great? As a tech worker, i think it is a challenge for lots of us to balance life and work, and checking job emails regularly in the evening does not help. It is just not healthy. It looks like working super hard is seen as good on its own. What sense does it make? I tend to think that we are a bunch of adults trying to build things, and we should evaluate our work looking at what we achieve, not the amount of time spent sitting at a desk. Well maybe i’m just a lazy-ass unmotivated guy.

    • R.H. Omea

      There’s no doubt that the American concept of “facetime” (no not the Apple one ‘-) is totally absurd as well. But the frequent dictums and fiats from the Hollande Administration is unwise – even if all it does is reinforce stereotypes that may or may not be true. If you go to the US/UK looking for bilateral investment/ placements as I do, you will hear all of these things being thrown up against investing in FR (again, true or not). Perhaps the gov’t needs to stop thinking about what the unions want to hear, without at least considering the effect of such rules on how it makes France look as a place where people would enter into JVs, fund start-ups, place EMEA HQs, etc.

      I work with SFO, NYC, LON – how do you sell PAR over AMS when they read that there’s a law that stops potential employees from answering an email or taking a Facetime meeting after 6pm?

  6. Steve Dent

    Get over yourself. There’s nothing in the Engadget article that isn’t true (I’m the author). For starters,work done over 35 hours can be clawed back with RTT time at any decent company, reducing total hours in a year. (And I never said shorter hours was a bad thing in the first place.) 6pm just refers to a standard US quitting time in the interest of brevity — obviously everybody has different hours. And the article said that it was “legally binding,” not a law, which applied to a million or so folks, not everybody. Otherwise, the article was not uncomplimentary at all to the French lifestyle. In fact, lots of commenters said they wish the US had similar rules. Considering that, the only one spraying fecal matter here is you.

    • Sandra li

      @Steve Dent
      This goes to show that you do not understand the 35 hour agreement.

      35 hours is the normal weekly labour time for admin staff (e.g. a secretary),

      On the other hand, executive agents’ work is not constrained by a weekly labour time limit. The law says they need to rest at least 11 hours per day; this means they can work up to 13 hours per day without being compensated.Their work schedule is annualised and they are never compensated for additional hours/days as long as they have not reached a yearly threshold of 218 days of work. That means they can work on the week-end without receiving an extra pay. In exchange they get a set number of RTT days (usually 10 or 11) that they have to use during the year those days are accrued, otherwise they loose them.

      You cannot benefit both RTT days AND a 35 hour week.

  7. ABC

    What bothers me the most in the Guardian article is the accumulation of French word and references to utter bollocks like “5 à 7” or “calorie control”. It’s plain ridiculous, and even more coming from such a respected newspaper.
    You have to scroll in the comment section to find some balance and sanity… Modern journalism at its worst.

  8. Cetkovic

    For info, stop focusing on french habits 🙂 On this topic: just try to get a german (even internet) company after 6pm on phone or by email… and we’ll rediscuss. And there is no issue in companies there. Just usual way of work !

  9. Russell Uresti

    You sound like a horrible person to work for.

  10. Ralph

    I am laughing manically right now because your last name is onomatopoetic of how I imagine a French person would say ‘booger’.

  11. R.H. Omea

    1. I must say that I regularly see entire departments arrive btwn 09-0930 to empty out at 12h30 for lunch and again at 17h30 at the two major bank offices, law firm and 2 investment companies that are right across from my 7th fl window near Ave Marceau. I don’t know where you work M. Boogar but I have rarely seen French employees at their desks at 19:30, if ever, when I have been taking meetings at la Defense, near Gare de Lyon or around the 8eme.

    2. the problem is not always the stated effect of another absurd rule/law trying to curry favor with the unions, but the knock-on effects it has on the employer by (in this case) giving the employees another way to pressure them when needed. Indeed you cited this type of knock-on effect when you spoke of the 35 hr work rules: “the main impact of the 35-hr law has been to create more hoops for companies to jump through in order to get around it.”

    Well who needs even MORE hoops to jump through when starting a new business or trying to grow a small one larger???

  12. CDS

    @Steve Dent : actually there is false content in your article. You say ” many companies are now forbidden to contact employees electronically after their work day is over” and THAT, my friend, is the worst reading of this text that you could’ve done.
    This law is about protecting employees of undue pressure that they have to undergo when they try to protect their right to a normal family life and don’t answer their email after their workday is over… Nobody ever said it would be unlawful to send email and contact employees… it just creates a presumption that will protect the employee in case of a firing for example… the company won’t be able to plea that he/she wasn’t reactive enough or such…

  13. josuesassi

    For information, high degree employees are usually under “day package contract”, basically 218 days a year. This means that you have x days to work, no matter the number of hours you do.

    That said, the “law” is here to secure employees by telling to companies that they have to respect the minimal daily rest.
    Legally it is 11h a day of ininterupt rest, if we follow the principle of 2h breaks/lunch break in a day it makes 11h where you can reach your employees.
    If we do the math, it is 9AM to 10PM. Quite a day of work…

    sources (in french) :
    The source of The Guardian : http://www.lesechos.fr/economie-politique/france/actu/0203425126713-mails-sms-telephone-syntec-reconnait-le-droit-des-cadres-a-la-deconnexion-662531.php
    The French Administration website about employee rights : http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/particuliers/N458.xhtml

  14. Sylvain Gauchet (@sylvainww)

    @Steve Dent: next time you do something (lie) in the “interest of brevity” (read: to have a catchy headline and get more clicks to your article), please take into consideration the fact that you might be hurting businesses and the people behind them.

    I’m the co-founder of a French company, with only 15% of its clients in France and more than 50% of its revenue from US based companies. We do our best so that being French is not an obstacle to doing business internationally and we try to adapt to US working hours. Sometimes taking client calls at 11pm or during the night if really needed. When you spread a rumor like this that goes viral (US friends tagging me in their FB posts, etc.) it sends a message to potential clients that we won’t be able to work with them correctly and it creates friction.

    By the way, my most relaxing days were working for a US company and ending work at 5pm. Just saying…

  15. Amazin Gino

    I’m working in Paris, in highly competitive environment since 10+ years, and never work after 5pm. I start around 10-10h30am, take 2h from 12 to 2pm time for eat and fitness and still have plenty of time to finish my work in 5-6h of daily work.

    Granted, some days I do work for 8-10 hours per day when in huge rush, but this is really exceptional.

    I don’t know who are you employees, but I pity them if you “socially force” them to work until 7pm.
    Shame on you. I bet you’re employees are just sitting around and browsing Internet just do not be frowned upon if they leave before it’s “socially accepted”. That’s not productive, that’s plain stupid.

  16. Paul

    Enfin bon bref…if we all work soo hard in France, then why our economy performs so poorly. And no: c’est pas eux!

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