Last week, the French Parliament voted to fully ban iPhones and tablets from schools, prohibiting students under the age of 16 from bringing their devices to class. This move is the latest in a growing string of initiatives by countries around the world to improve their citizens’ digital well-being and work-life integration.
The worldwide movement dovetails with our mission at Thrive Global to end the stress and burnout epidemic by shifting the belief that burnout is the price we must pay for success, which has been disproved by science. We know, instead, that when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity, and productivity improve dramatically.
As news breaks of more global initiatives to help people unplug from technology, avoid overwork, foster healthier screen time habits, and better integrate life and career, we will be updating this post.
Let’s all take inspiration from these countries taking action to help people set boundaries with screen time and, well, thrive.
France has emerged as a global leader in implementing laws that encourage better integration of work, school and life. Last week’s vote to ban devices from classrooms, which prohibits students under the age of 16 from bringing any smartphones or personal tablets to school, passed 62-1, and builds on a previous ban of devices during school instruction hours. These laws follow with President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 campaign to combat tech addiction among the country’s youth—now viewed as a matter of public health. “We know today that there is a phenomenon of screen addiction, the phenomenon of bad mobile-phone use,” education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told French news network BFMTV, according to CNN. “Our main role is to protect children and adolescents.”
The country is also taking measures to protect workers. Last year, France passed a law requiring companies with more than 50 employees to give employees the “right to disconnect” from email, smartphones and other devices during negotiated hours.
A 2018 law in South Korea is limiting workweeks to 52 hours for many employees, encouraging workers to spend time with their families and enjoy life outside of the office. Following several overwork-related deaths, the country's government decided to take action by pushing companies to let employees go home for the night and to free up their weekends. As part of the initiative, more than 700 of South Korea’s 3,672 large companies and public sector organizations have either hired new employees or plan to. Plus, Seoul’s city government started to enforce mandatory lights out and computer shutdowns on Fridays at 7 p.m. The cultural change represents a shift in national values from a culture of overwork to an embrace of unplugging and recharging so that citizens can value life outside of their consuming work schedules.
Denmark has the reputation of being one of the world’s happiest countries, and it’s not only because of their national obsession with hygge (or coziness) and relaxation. It could be because the government instills “co-operative learning” into their school curriculum -- a method that encourages teamwork and collaboration among students in schools. Unlike most schools that assign occasional group projects, students in Denmark are paired with other children regularly on their assignments, no matter their strengths and weaknesses. The method fosters an open environment for learning and communicating, which increases empathy and happiness among Danish children, and allows students to be more present in school and beyond the classroom.
Danish workers, too, seem to be thriving. According to the 2017 World Happiness Report, employees in Denmark feel less stressed, more fulfilled, and overall happier than employees in other countries. Needless to say, they’re doing something right.
If you weren’t inspired enough by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern becoming the first Kiwi PM to give birth while in office this summer, maybe we should talk about New Zealand’s four-day work week study, which has been making global news in recent news. The government is allowing and encouraging companies to implement four-day work weeks to increase productivity and reduce stress among workers. A company called Perpetual Gardens recently tested out the new schedule for two months, and found that employees felt less stressed and more confident in maintaining a healthy work-life integration. With the prospect of productivity levels up and anxiety levels down, more companies are jumping on the bandwagon and attempting to redefine a successful work week.
The country’s nationally mandated work vacation is only the tipping point of Sweden’s enviable work-life integration. The country allots citizens approximately five to six weeks per year for employees to go on vacation and and unplug from their busy jobs. The law is reflective of the culture’s value of lagom, the Swedish philosophy that encourages living a stress-free, balanced lifestyle. Lagom technically means “Not too little. Not too much. Just right.” The Swedish culture is all about balance and happiness, and the government’s enforced vacation days make it official.
For several years, Japan was infamous for overworking citizens -- even coining the term “death by overwork” -- but recently, the government has been implementing changes that are dramatically evolving work-life habits throughout the country. One specific shift has come with the new labor reform law, introduced in June, which set a legal cap on overtime work across industries. The new legislation prohibits employees from working over 100 overtime hours per month, and 720 hours per year. The law also features an “equal pay for equal work” standard to boost gender parity, and encouragement for companies to create welcoming environments for new moms returning to work. Returning to the workforce as a new mother is never easy, and Japan’s new law is making sure women feel comfortable and secure in their careers after maternity leave.
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