OPINION: The future: when will it all happen?

Comment by Caroline Hutchinson: IS IT just me, or does every-one wonder when the future is going to kick in?

Do you remember in the 1980s when we thought computers would bring a life of leisure? That robots would clean our houses and humans would sit back and relax, George Jetson style?

Instead, most of us are working more hours than ever, carrying a little computer in our pocket that ensures we are never officially off the clock. In Europe, new labour laws are trying to change things.

In France, workers in the digital and consultancy sectors are no longer required to respond to work emails outside working hours.

Companies must ensure their employees receive no pressure to look at work-related emails via tablet or smartphone after an agreed time. A minimum rest period is now mandated in employment regulations.

The law also discourages shifts between 9pm and 6am unless the work is vital to the economy or socially useful.

And a Swedish city council has announced it is trialling six-hour workdays with full pay for its staff in Gothenburg.

Authors of the experiment claim that after six hours, employees become tired and productivity is reduced.

From July 1, one group of aged-care workers will move to the six-hour day and another will work for the full eight. Psychologists have convinced civic leaders that the employees on reduced hours will be physically and mentally fresher and efficiency will improve.

Gothenburg Council has agreed to trial the reduced hours for a year.

According to the Bureau of Statistics, Australia has a large proportion of workers who are at the office more than 50 hours a week, but across the board we are below the OECD average for actual hours worked annually, averaging 39.9 hours per week for full-time employees.

The French and Swedish reforms would be a big cultural shift for Australia. I quite like sorting out emails at night so I can start fresh in the morning and I probably couldn't get my work done in six hours. It's not that I wouldn't be grateful for the changes, I just don't think they'd work for me.

Far more practical would be having Rosie the Robot to clean my house every day and a flying car that fits in my briefcase

Caroline Hutchinson is on holidays. She wrote this column earlier this year.

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