--Between 1979 and 2000, married
couples aged 25-54 saw their total number of hours of paid work
rise by 388, about 12 percent.
--Almost 40 percent of workers
put in more than 50 hours per week.
--26 percent of American workers
don't take any vacation time.
--Since the 1980's, work hours
have risen by about half a percent annually.
Meanwhile, various devices have
brought the workplace into the home. "The lines between
work and home have become so blurred that the only way you can
tell them apart is that one has a bed," writes "Work
to Live" author Jo Robinson.
Experts say "time
poverty" is hurting our marriages, our physical and mental
health, our civic life, our kids and the environment.
Maybe you feel the pressure: A
lack of time for exercise or healthy eating. Being
electronically leashed to your job when you crave a chance to
relax. You or someone in your family putting in ever longer
hours at work for fear of being "downsized."
Then there are the more subtle
signs. Ever notice how dining with friends requires combing your
calendars for a few precious hours nearly a month away? Or maybe
your dog looks under-exercised and lonely.
It wasn't always so.
Around 1900, American working
hours were declining. Economics books and articles predicted the
continuing expansion of leisure time, writes leisure scholar
Hunnicutt notes that in a 1920's
speech, biologist Julian Huxley said a two-day work week was
inevitable because "the human being can consume so much and
In the 1930's, Hunnicut says,
economist John Maynard Keyes observed that "when we reach
the point when the world produces all the goods that it needs in
two days, as it inevitably will...we must turn our attention to
the great problem of what to do with our leisure."
Also in the 1930s, the Kellogg
cereal factories began a 6-hour workday. Hunnicut says
productivity rose, workers lavished timed on their families, and
commercial recreation and nonprofit organizations flourished.
Yet, here we are, 70 years later,
with complex economic, political and cultural realities leading
to ever-shrinking windows of time for nurturing ourselves and
our ties to each other.
What to do?
suggest a number of steps you could take as an individual:
--Schedule once-a-week or
once-a-month family times.
--Talk with coworkers and supervisors about ways to reduce
after-hours phone calls and e-mails.
--Reclaim breaks and lunch time, even if you have to start
--Decrease the number of days you "stay late" at work.
--Read your company's policies on vacation time.
--Organize a civic or religious gathering to discuss time
--Claim a block of time for cooking slow food, cuddling your
pets, making music or photographing something beautiful.
You can also join with an
organization. Advocacy groups around the country are organizing
teach-ins, conferences and discussion groups about overwork. An
"It's About Time" coalition" is bringing the
issue to the attention of candidates for public office. Learn
more at www.timeday.org and www.worktolive.info
(c) Norma Schmidt, LLC