You know the situation. You've had a lovely weekend disconnected from your job and all things work-related. You've seen friends and family, had a few drinks and slept in. Then late on Sunday afternoon, your phone pings.
It's your manager, who has decided to "clear their emails" ahead of the new week.
No action is needed on your behalf until Monday, but this email propels you into a state of anxiety about the work tasks you'll need to do.
The Sunday Scaries have commenced.
In France, what your manager did would have been illegal. Six years ago, the French Government implemented a so-called "right to disconnect" policy, forbidding sending work emails outside office hours.
Two years of hybrid working - or full work-from-home mode - has tested the boundaries between work life and home life for many of us and as we all head back to the office, there's likely still a hangover about all-hours email replies.
When you receive an email after dinner, why not reply immediately from the convenience of your hand? What's the harm in trying to always stay on top of things, wherever you are like you've been doing since the pandemic started?
The problem, to use a reference from The Matrix, is this always-on philosophy of emailing leaves you plugged in. You're "headjacked" to your job, where a data port is always affecting your consciousness; continually keeping you engaged in work affairs and unable to completely switch off.
A weekend email is an unwanted and obtrusive action that your manager believes is harmless ¬– they didn't expect you to read it while bathing your toddler! – but nonetheless is not just something you'll glance over and "mark as unread" until the next day.
Instead, you'll stew over it all evening, effectively forcing you to do hours of unpaid work by proxy.
Benoit Hamon of the French National Assembly told the BBC: "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 colonise the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down."
That's the issue at heart right there. A single email or worktext isn't just a quick bit of comms to keep you in the loop for later. It's the result of chronic behaviour that eventually can lead to burnout.
Millennials and Gen Z are so accustomed to being always on – we've done it all our professional lives – we have failed to learn how to switch off. Work spills over to personal time and we have come to think that's okay.
A French-style intervention – which has been viewed favourably by the French people, save for some criticism that it enhances employee job insecurity – is warranted in 2022 New Zealand.
Is it government overreach? Nanny-state tactics? Socialism gone mad? I don't think so. It's a top-down realisation that work can be all-encompassing and unhealthy and, as individuals, we are not empowered to make the choice for ourselves.
After-hours emails are ingrained in our professional culture. In fact, 87 per cent of people check work emails outside normal working hours, and 50 per cent of us still check emails when on holiday.
Historically, when the nature of work has undergone a seismic change, governments have responded in kind and adapted. With the Industrial Revolution came child labour laws. After the Great Depression, social security like pensions and savings funds. A government-sanctioned "right to disconnect" only follows this expectation.
But this must come from the top down. You might have a personal philosophy of not reading work emails on the weekends, but as soon as your colleagues start doing it, the culture in your workplace will make you think it's expected.
And if you don't stay "in the loop" 24/7? Soon enough, you'll start to fear a colleague being liked over you for being more "dedicated".
I do believe companies should be in charge of their own policies, not the government, but that won't do much to change a nationwide culture. You shouldn't have to be told how to email. We all have work emails on our phones, and some jobs have emergencies that need to be dealt with after hours. Those expected to respond should be paid extra for it.
For everyone else, it's time to exercise sensitivity. In the absence of a law about weekend emails, if you're the kind of person to clear your emails on a Sunday afternoon, would it really hurt you to use the "send later" function? Just time your email not to land in someone's inbox until after 8am the next day, and you'll be doing your part in encouraging a positive work-life balance.