10/05/2018

# A new comment from Matt and a post from Doug Belshaw within 13 minutes of each other made me think again about sleep and the work/life balance.

Matt mentioned his sleep routine (done properly) and Doug quoted a piece from The Washington Post that mentioned how Robert Owens proposed that a workers day should be equally divided:

"Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest"

We are intimately familiar with the idea of getting 8 hours sleep (even if we don't manage it) and the concept of the regular work day (epitomised by the 9-5) is firmly established. We do not, however, necessarily subscribe to the notion of 8 hours recreation.

Owens campaigned for workers to labour no more than 8 hours a day yet just as important was the idea that "they had time to pursue their own interests — to enjoy leisure activities, cultivate their own projects, spend time with their families and so forth."

But times and expectations have changed along with how and where we work.

As a rule people used to be employed where they lived, whole towns grew around mines and factories. Commuting was not something the average worker did.

Now we live in commuter belts because we are priced out of the cities, spending hours every day travelling to and from concentrations of employment because that's where the work and the money is. The mines and factories are largely gone while technology has changed the very nature of the work we do. It promises freedom but can actually entrap us.

That same technology means that we are always available, always connected, able to work from anywhere. Globalisation has turned this into a 24/7 world where schedules are aligned and we must be "on call" just in case we are needed. Even at weekends.

The long work day Owens sought to eradicate seeks a return, implicitly via concessions and expectations even if not contractually. For all our progress we risk going backwards and the work/life balance leans heavily in favour of the former.

If the working day becomes inflated it must steal time from our recreation or rest - usually both. The commute becomes either an extension of the work day, "a way to get more work done" as Doug puts it, or we try to reclaim it with books and phones and tablets. Neither is truly productive.

So we make choices, often bad ones, as we try to maximise what we have.

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Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog