NYC’s No After-Hours Email Law Attempts to Promote Work-Life Balance

09.27.18
Patrick Cashin/MTA
U.S. News /27 Sep 2018
09.27.18

NYC’s No After-Hours Email Law Attempts to Promote Work-Life Balance

The concept of a work-life balance is one that is constantly being discussed. Smart phones and other mobile devices allow employees to be connected to their jobs 24 hours a day and encourage them to take their work home with them.

It can make it hard to find that perfect balance between work and home life — which is why the city of New York has taken the matter into its own hands. Let’s take a closer look at how New York City is trying to legislate the work-life balance of its citizens.

New Legislation

A new law has been proposed in New York by Rafael Espinal Jr., a city councilman who is concerned that the citizens of his hometown are working too hard. This new law would make it illegal for companies with a certain amount of employees to require that their team respond to emails or messages after they’ve gone home for the day.

Employers can send as many emails and messages as they want — it will be up to the employee to decide whether or not they wish to respond, and will prevent companies from retaliating against employees that choose to shut off their messenger when they leave for the day.

While this is the first time a law like this has made an appearance in the United States, it isn’t the first law of its kind. In 2017, lawmakers in France passed a law that required companies with 50 or more employees to create rules about after hours communication — specifically, they have to set up hours where employers are not allowed to send emails or messages to their employees. Germany passed a similar law in 2014.

Some European companies have also taken it upon themselves to help promote a healthy work-life balance. In 2012, car manufacturer VW blocked all emails to company phones after hours.

The Importance of Balance

Companies throughout the country are constantly struggling to find their own balance — the balance between running a successful and thriving business and being able to offer their employees time off to help create their own work-life balance. Businesses need employees to succeed. But when business owners take advantage of their employees and expect their employees to work excessive amounts of overtime and be on call 24 hours a day, it can lead to employee burnout and high turnover.

Without that work-life balance, employees aren’t the only ones that suffer. Spending so much time and energy, both physical and mental, on work takes both away from other things like family, friends, and hobbies. Burned out employees don’t work well and will have higher absenteeism, lower productivity and may even quit out of sheer frustration.

Focusing on that work-life balance helps companies to create what is known as a sustainable workforce — their employees are happier, healthier and are in the perfect position to help the company grow and thrive.

Fostering a Healthy Work-Life Balance

What can employers do to create an environment that fosters a healthy work-life balance for their employees?

Look to the millennials. The generation that has the worst reputation — according to the media at least — is primarily focused on careers that provide them with a healthy balance between their work and home lives. Flexible scheduling, vacation time, efficiency instead of busy work and the ability to telecommute are all things that make a career attractive to the millennial generation.

Other things might include offering affordable health benefits, retirement plans like a 401k, and education supplements or student loan assistance can also help create a balance because it enables employees to focus on work instead of worrying about things like retirement or paying back student loans.

Employers also need to watch out for signs that their employees might be burning out because of their work schedule or their workload. Increased absences, signs of physical exhaustion and errors in their work can all be signs that an employee is burning out. Changing things up in the office — offering days where the employees can leave early or lessening their workload if it appears that they’re on the verge of burning out — can help employers retain their current workforce and keep their employees healthy and happy at the same time.

Dropping to a four day work week is another option that is actually backed by science — recent studies have shown that employees who work a four day, 32 hour work week and have a three day weekend every week are healthier, happier and more productive than those who work a traditional 40-hour work week with a two day weekend.

The work-life balance might seem like an industry buzzword right now but it’s more important than most people realize — and that’s why New York is trying to legislate when and how employers can contact their employees after their work hours. Whether or not this new proposal becomes law remains to be seen, but if it is passed it could set a precedent that would allow other states or cities to do the same.

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