Thursday, 15 September 2011

Are you working too long?

A question: what made you stop working last night?

For me it was the power supply in the missionary guest house in which I’m staying in Niger cutting out at about 11.00 pm. Being a good Boy Scout, I was prepared for the event, so I grabbed the strategically placed torch and crawled under the mosquito net into bed, and wilted in the heat and darkness.

I guess for most of us, a technological interruption such as a failure in the power supply is a rarity, and therefore we work for as long as we wish, even if that is deep into the night.

But clearly there was a time when (with the possible exception of those with access to industrial supplies of candles!) sunset signified the end of the working day for most people. OK, we have the opportunity to churn out more work, but does an unbounded work day really lead to greater efficiency?

Similarly the working pattern of five days of work followed by two days of leisure is to all intents and purposes a thing of the past. The weekend is dead.

Taking this a step further, for some cultures, the concept of a planting and a harvesting season is still crucial. Visiting Niger this week has brought home to me the seriousness with which the arrival (or lack of it) of the rainy season is greeted. Right now, the rain is bouncing off the roof, and the side roads are almost impassable. But it’s accepted that the rains have arrived too late to save this year’s harvest.

For those of us living in non-agrarian cultures, the concept of seasons is almost meaningless. An interconnected world means that the idea of what the Book of Common Prayer describes as “the fruits of the earth in their season” is quaintly old-fashioned. Strawberries on Christmas day? No problem.

Do all these developments represent progress? I’m not so sure.

What do you think?

(Oh … as if on cue, the lights have gone out again)

If you enjoyed this, you might want to read an earlier blog item: "There is a time for all things"

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