More Vacations, Shorter Work Weeks, and Naps?

While I do come from a long line of women who’ve always done more than their share of what needed to be done, the truth is I like to work.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, I married a guy who likes work as much as I do. Our saving grace is that we’ve learned to pay attention to the signals that tell us when it’s time to stop working.

It happened last week when we both realized we were totally run down as the result of a summer that hadn’t included a lot of play, and a September that started off at much too fast a pace.

Over the years, we’ve found it easiest to leave work behind by getting away for the weekend, so get away we did. Leaving to-do lists behind, we enjoyed a leisurely weekend in the beautiful town of Canmore that focused on reading, long walks, good conversations, and great food.

While the weekend left us both recharged and ready to hit the ground running, it also made me realize how much better the world would be if we all just slowed down, worked less, and gave ourselves a chance to catch our breath and heal ourselves and the world around us.  But I guess before that can happen, it will need to become more socially acceptable not to work, and more acceptable to play and fully engage as citizens in our communities. 

I’m thinking it might not be all that complicated. Maybe it all comes down to three distinct movements promoted as strategies we can all pursue on both a personal and a social level - more vacations, shorter work weeks, and more naps.

At the turn of the nineteenth century most people worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. These hours gradually dropped over the years but the trend toward shorter work weeks stopped in the 1950s and 1960s during a time of rapid economic growth and affluence. However, when earnings had increased during the first part of the century, workers typically took half of their raise in dollars and the other half as increased free time. If we had continued to do this since then, we might have less money but we would have more time, as the average work week would now be about 25 hours. While shorter work hours mean we would earn less, it would also give us the choice of more flexibility in order to balance work and family responsibilities and live more simply. It may sound wacky but part time jobs with equal pay and opportunities for promotion would let people choose the work hours they want and their standard of living without being penalized. 

More vacations might also be a good idea. In Canada, the average vacation time is 26 days, far behind Italy at 42 days, France at 37 and Germany at 35.

Let’s also think about promoting naps, yes naps, as a strategy for addressing our hyper, cranked up pace.  Many believe it would allow us to be more attuned to the natural rhythm of our bodies with a time out that refreshes, renews, and recharges. Wouldn’t it be great if our culture allowed us to stop pushing on even when we’re tired and instead take the time for a siesta?

Ultimately, shorter work weeks, more vacations, and more naps would contribute to us being less cranky and more productive.

I could write more about it, but my eyes are getting heavy and I’m feeling the need to take a break and have a nap. Yawn. 

Posted on 09-11-11

Comments:


As one who loves to nap but too mourns the loss of my nap time lately, I greatly appreciate this blog, Brenda! Imagine how great life would be if we all saw our family and friends more than our co-workers (and I love my co-workers!).

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  09/13/11  at  08:58 AM


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