Treadmill Britain needs to lighten up

Is work dominating your life, controlling everything and creating more
disappointments than delights?

Our brilliant ‘Off Message’ columnist Stephen Overell, this week challenges
us with the notion that there should be a campaign for less work and more leisure.
It might sound like a light-hearted and trifling proposition but he’s raised a
serious point.

Overell is not calling for increased idleness, just the freedom to have
spare time, to relax and not to feel guilty about not being useful.

He argues that we’re obsessed with employment as our only meaningful
activity when leisure is equally worthwhile, allows us to express our talent
and personality and makes us feel so much better.

Only a mad person would disagree with him. But it’s important not to
demonise the workplace and deny how significant work is in many people’s lives.
Call them sad, but for some people the job really is the foundation of their
well-being and identity. It’s the satisfying and rewarding part of their life,
they are passionate about it and don’t feel anywhere near as positive about
their leisure time, which deliberately plays second fiddle.

For many, happiness at work correlates with happiness in life. It’s a
complex issue, but few can deny that employed people tend to be happier and
healthier than the unemployed.

Overell paints a picture of treadmill Britain, but his ‘total work culture’
belies the fact that attitudes are shifting away from long hours towards more
flexibility between home and job. Workers and employers recognise that well
being is dependent on balance and that no longer means working nine to five.
The next generation will undoubtedly be much more protective of their leisure
time and demand it from prospective employers. Reference to analysis

Industry leaders and employees in this country have a long way to go before
they reach agreement and are comfortable with levels of work versus play. But
if you are in the Overell camp and value your leisure time more than work, then
avoid jobs in Hong Kong and aim for Berlin, Copenhagen or Paris where the
average number of annual working hours are lowest. These are not lazy cities of
course, just vibrant business centres, chilled out about rest, work and play.

By Jane King, editor


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