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Opening Arguments

Please don't call me

It's hard for a working stiff not to admire the, um, work ethic in France, "a place that still believes in half-day closing and taking lunch breaks."

France is the only country in the world to have adopted a 35-hour working week and this is strictly enforced. So much so that, yesterday, an agreement was signed between bosses and unions representing more than a million white-collar employees that would strike the average British worker as an edict from Cloud Cuckoo Land. It is a legally enforceable deal that means workers should not be contacted once they have left the office. It is as if the smartphone had never been invented (and yes, I know, many of us might hanker for a return to those days).

There is now something that is being called "digital working time," which is all the time we spend working on our smartphones or other protable devices. There's no such thing as "at the office" or "at home" anymore, not to mention "Leo is on the road and unavailable right now." My laptop is set up so that it can connect me with the work sites I use when I'm in the office -- so being on the computer at home is just like being at work. That is liberating in a way -- I don't have to kill myself trying to get to the office during a brutal winter storm. But it's confining, too. It's like being on call 24 hours a day every day.

You'd think they wouldn't get much done in France, but according to the story, French productivity is higher than elsewhere in Europe. The French live longer, too, and their satisfaction with their quality of live is higher than the European average:

No wonder, we may say. We'd all like to take a couple of hours off for lunch, washed down with a nice glass of Côtes du Rhône, and then switch our phones off as soon as we leave work. It's just that our bosses won't let us.

Posted in: Current events