People often say what they don’t like about society but it’s rare that anyone comes up with any solutions. This is often true of life in general as well but since the current unelected Tory government seems completely work obsessed then what could be a good alternative?
It’s long been known that the 8 hour working day is a bit of a sham. Most people spend an average of 2-3 of those 8 hours really not doing much at all (if anything) and a good chunk of the day is spent sitting on one’s arse doing piss all rather than being productive. Combine this with the fact that the structure is highly unbalanced and you start to run into problems.
A day is theoretically split into thirds. You work for a third, you have your own time for a third and you sleep for a third. Sounds fine doesn’t it? Except that it isn’t.
Your work day is strictly expected to start on the dot at say 9am and end exactly at 5pm (This is not taking into account arriving early to “heat up the machines”). This may sound reasonable but it doesn’t take into account the fact that you have to eat into your own time in order to travel there.
It takes an average worker about an hour to get to his/her job. That’s two hours of your own time lost right there. Add to this the fact that you have to also do the toilet stuff, shower, get dressed and eat breakfast before the journey even begins and you are looking at maybe 4 hours of your own time to enjoy (About half of the theoretical free time). Now combine this with the working week of 5 days on and 2 days off. How is that balanced in any way? It seems heavily in favour of one side to me.
There is also the danger of sleep issues from the previously mentioned routine. At night the human body runs through what are known as sleep cycles and these can be thought of in terms of waves. Have you ever woken one morning after 8-10 hours sleep and felt like total shit and have been tired/sick all day? Maybe one day you had 4 hours sleep and woke up feeling great. This is you waking at the wrong and right times in your sleep cycle. The sleep cycle is split into 4 stages with stage 1 being the best time to awaken and stage 4 being the worst.
Your body will release chemicals (cortisol) in order to wake you just at the right time (stage 1) in your sleep cycle so that everything is sewn up, filed down & polished. In a regular work pattern you literally have to interrupt your snooze with some sort of alarm in order to get up in the morning which if not timed correctly can (more often than not) wake you up in a lesser preferred stage of the sleep cycle and is incredibly detrimental to health and more importantly, mood. If you get woken up in the wrong stage then you are in for a bad day and mounting health problems. Imagine a group of builders repairing a house but got stopped before they could pull the protective tarp over the half finished delicate repairs and then the corrosive weather started. That’s you on the wrong end of your sleep cycle.
I’m not even going to get into all this on top of things like zero hour contracts, workfare, long distance travel to low paid work etc.but one can imagine the poor quality of life that can emerge from these factors.
So what can be done? The current system system needs a bit of an overhaul and this is maybe what I’d do if I were in charge and making the rules:
1. Six Hour working day W/12 hour flexitime sections
– Get those wasted two hours away and give them back to the individual. A Six hour working day would be introduced and this would give the working more time to themselves without interrupting productivity as work day targets would still need to be met. Also the worker would be given a choice of start/finish time which would be a basic threefold:
– This would be for the people who are natural early risers and would enjoy the afternoon off. Also ideal for those with children who don’t like to be missing when they finish school.
– This would be my personal choice. It gives the individual the opportunity to rise naturally and have the morning to themselves. They then appear at work refreshed & ready to start the tasks of the day and they know they have a full evening free to enjoy a social life.
– Some people are early risers and some prefer to work later. Others often have nothing to do in the evening and dislike being alone so a later finish after a night filled with activity would be ideal.
Not only would this amount to the same, possibly more work being done in a day due to a more pleasing work structure but the different times would ease congestion on the road due to everyone not starting/finishing at exactly the same time.
All of these could be tailored to work around flights, family commitments, hobbies, etc but the most important aspect of this is that life is all about choice and so if people wish to work those extra 2 hours on top of their six the they can as is regular overtime being available.
“Oh but everyone will just sleep in and start at the same time anyway!” I hear the naysayers cry.
This is not true simply due to the fact that, despite what old fashioned work structure and suits have portrayed, we humans are not all the same. There are some people who love to get up early in the morning and some who love to start the day later. The same amount of work will still be getting done within the day so what is the problem?
Of course all this is simply a small example and the method could indeed be expanded and tailored to cater for nighthawks and those who prefer to avoid the daylight hours. This would of course eliminate the need for shift work as there will always be these sorts of people and who better to give this time to than those who actually enjoy it.
2. Basic Income
Another change I would implement without thought is the concept of a basic income. If you do not know what a basic income is then please read my previous article on the subject here.
A basic income would of course eliminate all current benefits and offer everyone an unconditional amount of money per month REGARDLESS of whether one is working or not.
My basic income rate would be (at present) set at £1000pcm for every adult in the country and £500pcm for every child. (In line with current interest rates, consumable prices and controlled rents). No one is going to go without but also no-one is going to profit from the misery of others.
A basic income provides a constant and LIVABLE safety net for those who find themselves out of work. It won’t buy any luxuries but it also won’t make you choose between heat or food, which most certainly are not luxuries.
It would also provide for those who cannot have a job (notice I didn’t say “work” there becasue poor health IS hard work) due to illness, disability or mental health. Instead of a cruel means tested system where one is constantly humiliated and living in fear it would provide a stress free security blanket where people can do what they can in society like volunteer in cash starved charities, animal shelters and abuse clinics (Something which one wouldn’t normally consider if stressed to the point of near suicide).
“Oh free money, how is that going to be paid for?”
Easy! A basic income would be financed by eliminating gratuitous expanses like nuclear weapons, MPs expenses plus (and most importantly) the existing benefit budget would be transferred over to the new system so it’d be going to the same place anyway. The expensive, confusing and slow bureaucracy of the current benefits system would be gone so that would be even more savings to be put into the new scheme. Other means like cannabis legalisation, regulation and taxation would plug any gap in difference, probably even creating a surplus. This is all before taxation of high earners/hoarders and closing corporate tax avoidance is even a consideration.
3. 4 day week
We’ve already talked about how we constantly hear about how we should lead a balanced life yet typical work structure doesn’t seem to account for that. Unless you are totally rubbish at maths then 5 days on and 2 days off isn’t balanced in the slightest so a working week of 4 days on and 3 days off would be far far better with say a Tuesday to Friday on and Saturday, Sunday and Monday off. Psychologically this would mean you start the working week only a day off of the middle of the actual week which can be a big motivator and hence more work done in a shorter amount of time.
Of course the option to work more days is there if one needs it. Why not indeed? More work done means better productivity (money) for a business so what’s the problem of someone being paid for that extra work accordingly?
4. Make Jobcentres actual Job Centres instead of benefit centres
At the moment Jobcentres here in the UK are basically places you go to prove that you are worth helping. Jobcentres used to be a hub where companies could advertise their jobs and then the Jobcentre would help you find work. That’s pretty much all gone now and the dirty work has to be done by you.
I would give the Jobcentres the power to hire on behalf of companies. You get an initial interview at the Jobcentre with a qualified adviser and then they work with you over a number of weeks to find suitable employment which they will eventually just send you to. The adviser uses the time to coach the jobseeker to prepare for their actual new job instead of wasting so much time focusing on the interview which has already been done.
This method will give a FAR better indication of a potentially good employee rather than a vague half hour chat with questions which can mostly be looked up.
The time saving structure of this new method would not only take the huge stress out of jobseeking and the out of date interview system but it would create employment for Jobcentre staff who would otherwise be out of work due to the aforementioned new Basic Income replacing the benefits system. This would also save spending time trying to “check up” on the applicant to see if they deserve this week’s benefits as there will be none.
The Jobcentres would now be doing the task of actually helping enthusiastic and stress free people into work instead of assessing benefits for those living on the edge of survival.
Some may be reading this and think it’s some sort of lefty masterplan to avoid “real” work but it’s not. The truth is that our society is chock full of people in “jobs” which don’t really do anything but we have been conditioned to think that any sort of employment which takes up most of your day is worth something even if it’s practically useless. They pay the bills (just) yes but they don’t offer satisfaction and add to this the rise…nay arrival of automation and soon there won’t be any jobs left for anyone to do and no-one left to buy what the robots are making.
There are then the bitter types who want to keep everything the way it is becasue they never had the chance for change.
“I worked my whole life so why should anyone else get it easy?”
This is a dangerous attitude and one which the Tory government in particular is fond of fueling to divisive ends. If that is the attitude then what exactly is the endgame? What are we all slogging so hard for if not to make life easier for future generations? (This is not the same as horrible entitlement by the way).
What if people 100 years ago didn’t implement any changes to make life easier? We wouldn’t have the health and safety act, we wouldn’t have cars or trade unions, running water or a host of other things that get us through the day just that bit easier. In my view we’re working towards a society that makes time for it’s citizens to be happy and live the Jetsons life. Otherwise what’s the point?
The attitude that if everyone doesn’t work then they will turn in to alcoholic layabouts is a horribly bleak view of humankind yet it’s one which is pushed to the limit by the right wing MSN onto the people who DO endure a drudge filled life yet accept it as a prideful existence.
Make no mistake, even if people had their income sorted at the basic level…..hell even if the concept of money was eliminated entirely people will STILL want to be doctors, people will STILL want to be engineers, lawyers, scientists etc. becasue that’s what they are interested in. The idea that everyone gets into a career JUST because of the salary is disgusting and an insult to the good people of our species.
We have a long way to go as a people. The world is still grossly imbalanced and both the far left and far right are at fault (though the far right are far more destructive).
We have to drop the attitude of accepted misery that has been inflicted on us by a ruling class and dump the jealousy towards our fellow humans.
Balancing society is the most important factor and instead of “That person has more than me, so they should have less to balance it” it should be “That person has more than me, so why don’t I have more to balance it”.