4 unusual ways businesses are stopping employees from working

The 35 hour working week, which has become so sacred to the French since its introduction in 1999, has come under threat from the invasion of smartphone working culture.

So now a new labour agreement has made it illegal for employers to expect their staff to work after 6pm.

The legally-binding agreement between employment federations and unions means French workers will have to turn off their work phones and ignore any emails sent after that time.

Another unusual way to boost worker productivity comes about in the US on 20 June: National Take Your Pet to Work Day. A study published by the British Journal of Health Psychology in 2007 said that pet owners were generally happier, healthier and less stressed.

A survey of 3,000 office workers conducted in 2010 by Bio Agency found that 16 per cent had an office pet and 55 per cent said they would feel more motivated if they had an animal to play with at work. The top choices included the standard cats and dogs, as well as the more unusual and exotic - geckos, snakes and tarantulas.

In the Swedish city of Gothenburg, the city council has launched a trial where half of its workers do six hour days, while the other half work seven. The idea is to see which side is more productive.

The city’s deputy mayor Mats Pilhem told Swedish paper The Local that the problems they had had with government in the past were not because there wasn’t enough manpower available - it was that they became unproductive after so many hours of work.

However, opposition groups at the council say the whole thing’s a cheap vote ploy ahead of the upcoming city council elections. According to them, a similar scheme with trialled in the northern Swedish city of Kiruna until it was abandoned in 2005, because it made no difference to worker productivity or health.

Over in Silicon Valley, note-taking platform Evernote has taken unlimited holiday time to a new extreme.

Unlimited holiday has been doing the rounds in tech hubs on both sides of the Atlantic for a while but when Evernote realised its employees were not taking enough time off, it introduced a scheme where it would give them $1,000 spending money if they could prove they were going to do something interesting with their holiday.

The move’s intended to encouraged a working culture where people are happy in their jobs, and thus more productive when they are there.