This week, I took a self-care day off. Working 5 days is the norm, but it doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Right now, work tires me out more than when I worked 12 hour shifts 3 times a week. Technically, I get more time to sleep and recover, but mentally it’s a challenge to stay focused 5 mornings running. It’s similar to when I worked retail, in which a weekend is unheard of, and you’re shockingly lucky to ever get 2 days off in a row. I still feel lucky to have escaped those hellish all-consuming shift patterns.
But just because retail was worse, doesn’t mean I can’t try to make my office schedule better for me. There’s a limit to how much I can move around in my office day, or make nice drinks, or listen to good white noise. Offices allow a lot more freedom, digitally and in being allowed to sit and drink during working hours, but there’s no substitute for time off on weekdays, when the shops are quiet and everyone else’s offices are open.
I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling to do my personal admin alongside my work. Yes I can call the dentist in working hours, but can I call 5 different ones, and compare their rates? I can call HMRC at work, but can I stay on hold for 20 minutes? I can call the doctor, but can I discuss my medical needs with them whilst my colleagues are in the next room? This disproportionately affects disabled people, who often have more bureaucracy to hurdle, and less ability/energy/brain space to do it with.
I know people mostly manage it, but our 9-5 working week isn’t written in stone. Throughout the ages our work-life balance has changed and evolved. Notably, with the invention of the clock and factory work, we began to have set hours instead of rough agricultural ones, based on the setting sun.
Public and union campaigns to limit hours to an 8-hour day are taken as granted, but working days used to be much longer. As modern life became more complicated, systems were designed around a stay-at-home wife, which meant the worker could leave those tasks to them.
Nothing about the current schedule of our busy working lives was designed to be manageable, and offices don’t seem to have noticed it. Mothers everywhere take the brunt of childcare and home-management still, even whilst they need to work to support their families to pay rents that are higher than they have ever been (as a portion of our incomes). Those mothers then face the unfair choice of putting the brakes on their career by going part-time to support their family needs, or allowing their home life to fall into disarray, whilst their male partners obliviously continue with business as usual, unhindered by worries about home.
Outside of the gender gap, which is outdated and irrational, there’s also the question of whether any of us should be working full time. Our office hours were set at a time when messages where sent by post and written by type-writer, before the age of faxes, computers, and emails. Screens dominate the modern office, and it’s known to be affecting our health, as we spend hours in sitting positions we were not designed to do. A soaring career will never replace the importance of a personal life, regulated emotions, and inner peace.
And in some poetic irony, I don’t always have as much time or energy as I’d like to polish my posts. That’s why I’m releasing these thoughts, as they are, late on a Tuesday night…perfect!
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