The eternal debate of work vs leisure has attained greater proportions during the pandemic. The 3L&3S has featured enough debates around the optimal way to balance WFH with in-person attendance at work. At the one extreme are people who have found WFH too hectic given the blurring of lines between work and life. At the other extreme are people who have found the value of time – time saved from meaningless commute and somewhat irrelevant productivity-destroying small talk at work. This piece focuses on the latter who try and define the purpose of work. We all need a means to live but for an end, where work as a means to the end attains a construct which makes leisure the central goal.
“time millionaires measure their worth not in terms of financial capital, but according to the seconds, minutes and hours they claw back from employment for leisure and recreation. “Wealth can bring comfort and security in its wake,” says Roy. “But I wish we were taught to place as high a value on our time as we do on our bank accounts – because how you spend your hours and your days is how you spend your life.”
And the pandemic has created a new cohort of time millionaires. The UK and the US are currently in the grip of a workforce crisis. One recent survey found that more than 56% of unemployed people were not actively looking for a new job. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that many people are not returning to their pre-pandemic jobs, or if they are, they are requesting to work from home, clawing back all those hours previously lost to commuting.”
The people actively embracing a less work-focused life are, generally speaking, childless members of the professional classes, but Roy argues that this shouldn’t have to be the case. “If society was truly progressive,” she says, “it would not work people to the bone in the first place, or make the assumption that leisure, time to rest, time to be with your family, is only for the wealthy.”
“There’s a movement here that feels pretty organic,” says Warzel. “The pandemic was this massive controlled experiment in forcing people to embrace a different way of working. And what we saw was the opposite of what executives had been telling employees for decades: productivity and profits [rose]. Now, people are wondering what else employers were wrong about. What other ways of working have gotten out of sync?”
…leisure has become a dirty word. Any time we scrounge away from work is to be filled with efficient blasts of high-intensity exercise, or other improving activities, such as meditation or prepping nutritionally balanced meals. Our hobbies are monetised side hustles; our homes informal hotels; our cars are repurposed for ride-sharing apps. We holiday with the solemn purpose of returning recharged, ready for ever-more punishing overwork. Doing nothing – simply savouring the miracle of our existence in this world – is a luxury afforded only to the respectably retired, or children.”

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