The French can turn off, why can't we?

Mmmm... French fries.
The debate surrounding work and rest was raised again recently, as a new labour agreement between unions in France's consulting and technology sector was signed on April the 1st. However, there has been widespread miscommunication in the media regarding the story. Here, we take a look at the controversy and reflect on the work-life balance.

By Zafar Jamati

Originally reported incorrectly by the Guardian, the catchy headline "when the French clock off at 6 pm, they really mean it" went viral, but was later amended as it turned out to be not entirely true. The contracts of "autonomous employees" are based on work days - not hours - and therefore they are unaffected by France's popular 35-hour working week.

For autonomous employees in the technology sector, it is not unusual to work 70-hour weeks. The agreement stipulates that after having worked a 13-hour shift, employees can no longer be expected to answer or reply to work related activities, and should be allowed to turn-off phones and other devices.

About 250,000 people (not the one million previously reported) are affected and there is no specific time limit, although negotiators had previously discussed a sign-off period from 9pm-7am.

So no matter how much we like to picture the French as suave citizens of sophistication, with their continental cuisine and natural nonchalance, the fact of the matter is the demands of the modern world universally affect us all. These requirements are also increasingly blurring the traditionally distinct lines between work and rest.

To battle this issue, a whole host of companies in Silicon Valley are helping people undertake a 'digital detox', by spending time in the wilderness, without phones and cell reception. This allows individuals to rebuild frayed human relationships and reflect on life, the universe and everything.

Here at Stone Junction we like the old Chinese saying that "if you find a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life". Whilst it's true that work is never all play, because of deadlines, responsibilities and early mornings, enjoying your job definitely makes it all worthwhile.

So what do you do to combat burn-out, how do you balance your work and personal life? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image courtesy of KEKO64 at


Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.


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