Interview with Bart Ensing on Working Hours

Work is one of the activities that takes the most time in our lives. Therefore, it is important to take an active look at the way societies have structured working hours. Time has increasingly been a major concern for new generations (and it may be the key to explain the paradigm of success for Millennials) and it’s quite obvious now that there must be a priority shift for the sake of Mankind.

Bart Ensing was previously interviewed on the topic of meditation and how meditating creates the space within us to cope with everyday life. This time, he shares with us his perspective on working hours and his experience within the professional shift occurring. It is an opportunity for each of us to reflect on the topic of time within a personal and societal context.

 

1 – You have recently started to work 4 days a week and having Wednesday as a day-off. What has lead you into that? How do you feel about it?

It’s been great so far! A day off during the week has several benefits and not only for you as an employee, but also for your employer. It seems like we are living two lives simultaneously nowadays: our real life and another one online. There are so many things to manage and if you don’t manage your time and focus appropriately you might get overwhelmed. I see that happening around me: people are turning into zombies on the train: working on their social lives, checking their e-mail, planning their next get together. On the long run, people start showing signs of exhaustion and might end up having a burnout, or similar symptoms. Their body tells them it’s time to take a step back, but they don’t see it coming. So, to not end up spending months in recovery and leaving your employer with paying your salary in the meantime, it might be wise to think about your work-life balance. I’m finding out that for managing and living my life as I want I need more time to myself than a regular 2-day weekend. So I started taking Wednesday’s off so I can work on things like this interview ūüôā Spend time on getting my house in order literally and figuratively; I’ve taken on swimming and guitar lessons, reading books about emotional development and doing my longer sports training. It’s also the day I’m not disturbed while handling personal mail, administration and doing groceries. I’m basically taking this day for myself so I can grow personally, can be totally focused during my working days and have the weekend free for social activities.

 

2 – What do you think that needs to be changed about the old models of working hours?

Two things:
1- During the industrial revolution in Britain, there was a movement called the 8-hour day movement. In short, people (and children) were working an assembly line fo 10-16 hours a day and they ended up exhausted and injured (or killed). As a result, the 8 hours-workday was invented with fewer accidents and injuries as a result. The working conditions improved dramatically, however, a few hundred years later our work has completely changed but the working hours remain the same. In this brain-economy, we can’t be effective for eight hours a day and companies should understand this. And we are not getting tangled up in machines anymore, but our brain is getting tangled up. I’m a huge fan of a six-hour workday and who doesn’t want to go home at three o’clock? Spending less time working means that you have to be more effective in planning and executing your work and there is less time for doodling around. But I think doing (or not doing) these things will make employees happier.
2- People can also take matters into their own hands by working less. And of course that might not be possible for everyone because bills have to be paid, but people have a tendency to spend most of their money regardless of how much they earn. So take a good look at your spending pattern. Is it possible to cut down costs by 10%? Great, you just gave yourself the liberty of working half a day a week less.

 

3 – How do you think this shift may happen in a realistic and sustainable way? What will it require from the Governments and the people?
 
I’m not really a policy guy, so I haven’t really thought about how governments can help us shift to a better work-life balance. However, spending a little less money on the results of a burn-out and start spending more on preventing them might be a good start. It might be an idea to start programs on how to deal with this 3rd-millennium chaotic life and see if we can implement more tax benefits for people that don’t work 40-hours a week. For people, in general, I would say: really think about what you need in terms of time for yourself and money to spend and don’t look at your peers for deciding your standards. Dare to be different and inspire others to do so too.
 
4 РWhat does effective time management mean in the world of today? & How can we use time in more meaningful way and, therefore, shape the way we see time as a society?
 
“There are only 24 hours in a day” is something you hear often. This probably points to all the things people have on their to-do list and the lack of time they have in their perception. I think finding out where to say “yes” and ” no” to will be critical in managing your time. If you are responding to every text or incoming call the moment it comes in, you are effectively working on the to-do list of someone else instead of your own. In that case; separating the two lives -online and offline- might be a very nice exercise to start with. And I am still figuring out how to do that for myself, but experimenting a little gives great insights. This week I’m not looking at any screens after 6 pm, which means no laptop, tv (I don’t own one so that one is easy) or phone in the evening. This completely shifts your notion of time! It really helps you see what is around you and all the inspiration has to come from yourself. If you want to give yourself a mental wellness week, this measure will give you exactly that!
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