If you believe, as the French government does, that work-obsessed bosses and demanding work cultures are what drive people to stay tethered to the “electronic leash”
of the office, “like a dog,” as one member of parliament put it, then passing a law requiring companies to negotiate new limits on after-hours email makes sense.
And it’s true, a manager who emails at all hours and expects a reply — or who doesn’t make clear that they don’t — is sending a powerful signal that they value working all the time. Research
into work-life stress has found, not surprisingly, that workers will sometimes get up in the middle of the night to send an email with a late time stamp, so their workaholic bosses will think they, too, are working late into the night.
So you’d think that if top managers sent a very different signal — a series of emails, say, reminding workers that the offices will be closed and to enjoy their vacation — workers would be able to unplug, right?
To find out, ideas42
, a nonprofit that uses behavioral science to understand and design solutions to thorny social problems — including a current project on work-life conflict that the Better Life Lab is a partner on — decided to run an experiment over the winter holiday, using themselves as guinea pigs.