Just getting there

It occurred to me this morning just how much time many of us spend on simply getting to work. For five out of every seven days for around 50 weeks of the year we shove ourselves into a train, bus or car twice a day in order join society in our collective work habits. I personally spend from 10 to 15 hours per week just getting to work. That’s 40 to 60 hours every month, coupled with £300 in fuel, just to get to get my arse to the office. The vast majority of this is taken up with sitting on a motorway, handbrake on, staring at the back of someone’s car, thinking about how much their desire to cover their car with stickers and toys is indicative of a moron behind the wheel.  But anyway, that’s a little shy of £4000 and around a month out of every year spent on travelling to work so that I make enough money to cover the rent, bills, food etc and of course cover the cost of getting to work so that I can make enough to cover the rent…

I do worry that many of use are spending more time than is healthy of working and getting to work; five out of seven days? Is this really a good idea? It turns out that I’m not alone in this.  With progressively more people becoming depressed, stressed and ill from work our warped solution is ‘more on-site councillors’ or ‘team outings’ in order to keep the tightly strung workforce at their desks, rather than examining what might be a fundamentally flawed structure.

The president of the UK Faculty of Public Health said the five-day week should be phased out to end what he called “a maldistribution of work” that is damaging many people’s health.

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said.

So how do we go about implementing this? Personally I’d like to be squirrelled away in a cabin by a lake making whimsical observations on nature and publishing every other year in an esoteric journal, but I have a sneaking suspicion this might not me the most viable approach! I’d settle for four working days per week, maybe even a few of those at home. If the work is load is managed and deadlines are made surely that justified any schedule adjustment.

This isn’t the first time this has been proposed either:  back in 2008 a four-day week was trialled in Utah, revealing that less really might be more.

If working less and better can reduce pressure on public services, create a healthier society and cut greenhouse gas emissions, is it time for national “gardening leave” for all? “I wish I’d spent more time at the office” are words few would carve on their headstones.

What do you think: is five days perfectly acceptable or is the work:life balance maldistributed? I know where I stand.

Update 15.07.2014
Have just seen an interesting article in Forbes about a similar topic. Well worth a read.

A few decades ago the decision between work and family was one that most working professionals around the world had to make on a regular basis. The rationalization for many was that “I have to pick work to support my family.” Although we have seen some improvement in this area over the last few years, many people still have to make this choice. But why? In today’s world with co-working locations, flexible work environments, collaborative technologies, and new forms of management, why do employees even need to consider making this choice? As long as we get our jobs done why can’t we focus on things that we want to prioritize? Isn’t this what the future of work is all about? READ MORE

7 thoughts on “Just getting there

  1. Sam

    I actually did something like this at one job I had: I’d have one extra day off per two weeks. It was glorious (no more stressing on when to plan dentist visits and the like!) and usually when I was about to have a nervous breakdown from working with my stupid boss, hey! time for my extra day off! :D
    It did mean I earned a little less, which would be a problem for the main breadwinner, but surely the money that we save on healthcare and sick leave can help out there?

    1. beardynerd Post author

      Sounds awesome! As I’ve said before if people just worked more efficiently there’s no way most of us would need to be hanging out at work 5 days per week. Back in my old job you’d frequently here people saying things along the lines of, “Better stretch this job out for the whole day otherwise I’ll be sitting here with nothing to do.” Inefficient!

      1. Sam

        It also depends on opening times, if you’re working with customers. But if a shop for example is open from 9am to 9pm, you’d already have 2 shifts, so why not make it 9am-3pm and 3pm-9pm? Problem is that independent shops often can’t afford that much staff and owners are forced to work those hours themselves. :-/

  2. Fiskebolla

    Well, my dream is 6 hour work days. People think it is because of laziness, but it is not really. I like my job. But I would like more energy after I’m done working for the day.

    1. beardynerd Post author

      Sounds perfectly reasonable! It seems rather obvious that vast majority of people use their time woefully inefficiently and working 9-3 for example would be perfectly viable!

  3. John Pombrio

    I worked from home for HP for 4 years as a second tier system support engineer. The commute was coming down the stairs and the dress code included underwear. It was extremely difficult work tho. Why? I never left the office. The computer and phone were always on and there was more work than our team of 4 could reasonably do in a 8 hour day. So days went 10-12 hours. We had wireless headsets so I could be cooking and talking with the division at the same time but it just never stopped. What a relief when I got laid off!
    Moral. Telecommuting is NOT the answer. Nor is 4 day work weeks if you work as long and as hard as most people do here in the US.

    1. beardynerd Post author

      I’ve also worked from home full time, as a freelance writer for a year. It definitely has its shortcomings and I don’t think that that really is the solution. The problem is that great swathes of people are suffering from mental and physical problems on account of work. The stress of spending the vast majority (5 or 7 days) of our time doing something most people either dislike, or at best are indifferent to, is taking its toll on the population’s well being. Some people are lucky and love their jobs, others work in jobs in which they choose to work many hours (I used to be in academia and that’s a prime example of people choosing to be in the lab 10+ hours a day). The point is that we (we, as in society on a global scale) have perhaps poorly distributed the time allotted to life, and the time allotted to work, and many people are paying for this choice with their mental and physical health. So if a 4/3 day split isn’t the answer, what is? Does it really seem logical to remain in this shoehorned position of spending our lives supporting our 2 day weekends?


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