How much work is too much work? France and Sweden have some interesting answers.
According to a report in The Guardian on Wednesday, French unions and employer federations have signed an agreement that halts communication between employers and their workers after 6 p.m. As NPR notes, the agreement “covers only those workers who work on a daily contract and is an amendment to a 1999 agreement between the two sides that introduced, among other things, France's 35-hour workweek.”
NPR (as well as Slate) has been careful to clarify that the new regulations do not apply to all workers, as was originally reported by The Guardian. According to the French blog, Soit Dit En Pensant (which NPR referred to for their clarification), “The use of new technologies extends the boundaries between work hours and free time. (Daily contract employees) have to have at least 11 hours a day of free time. Which means they can legally work up to 13 hours."
In other words, the French take their free time very seriously.
A city in Sweden, on the other hand, currently has a proposal to test the eight-hour workday against the six-hour one (which is currently what France enforces).
According to The Atlantic, legislators in Gothenburg, Sweden, have a proposal to track the productivity of two groups of workers over the course of a year. Both groups will be paid the same, but one will work six hours a day and the other eight.
“The cult of the six-hour work day knows no bounds, stretching from France to Venezuela, but the policy doesn't always work,” The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman writes. “This mixed record hints at a larger insight: The relationship between hours worked and productivity — let alone other variables like wealth and well-being — is incredibly complex.”
The Swedish experiment may help demystify some of those complexities.