The opression of the 40+ hour workweek
Do you live for the weekend? Is the main purpose of the workweek to count down to those two days of freedom? Do you find you often end up picking up chores that got neglected throughout the week, like laundry, vacuuming or cleaning the kitchen?
I actually like my job, but if you’re anything like us, the above paragraph might be a bit too familiar.
Now, I might sound like a very privileged millennial saying this, but I do not enjoy the classical 9-5 (or 8-4 in Norway) workweek, nor do I feel like I have the ambition or stamina required sometimes. Truth be told, I enjoy shift work even less, so between the two I would always go for a predictable, daytime Moday-Friday job.
Never the less, what I really wanted while studying, before finding the FI community, was a reliable part-time job 3-4 days a week, doing meaningful work. I knew I had low spending habits and no real desire to inflate that much beyond poor-student mode, so I saw this as no problem at all.
Of course, being a student of environmental science, what I did not know was that in this field, expectations are for full-time almost exclusively. Exceptions have been known, but they are rare and far between.
So why this opposition towards full-time work? Well, firstly I don’t need that much money, except as a means to the end of financial independence. Secondly, while studying, I really enjoyed being able to go to the shop and get my errands out of the way during the week, avoiding the throng of the weekend crowd when everyone else wants to get their shopping done too.
All the positions I had held until graduating university had been part-time or contract based. They had a pre-defined beginning and end. Full-time was easy then, knowing that in 4 months, 7 months or 5 weeks, whatever the number was, I would get a break and then begin the next project or semester.
Why 40 hours?
While most of us take for granted that 40 hours is a prescribed full-time job, it doesn’t necessarily have to stay that way. Sweden, among others, have been experimenting with 6 hour workdays for some time. And why should we look down our noses at people who wish to work less anyway? We need to rein in our consumption in large parts of the world, and working and earning less might be one way that can be achieved.
The other thing is that, while I enjoy my work, I also have many other projects I want to pursue, such as gardening, writing, hiking, preserving food and visiting friends. I do not want to spend 40-50 hours, or over 35 % of my waking hours during the week, solely on one activity. I wish to pursue some others as well.
Of course, there is also the ambition. Mine is a competitive field, and being not a terribly competitive or ambitious person myself, I find the pace breathtaking at times. Coming home with energy left over is not a given. A lot of the time, it is a swing and miss, which is why several of the posts on this blog are written on those precious weekend days and scheduled for the upcoming week, just in case I do not have the energy to keep up.
I wish to wake up with the sun, and follow the natural rhythm of the day as I go about my tasks at my own speed.
I think the part that galls me the most about being chained to a job is the feeling of loosing precious time.
The month I arrived back in Norway in May, I had 1 week of leisure before my first day of work. it was glorious. We worked in the garden, ran errands, walked, talked, cooked and generally busied ourselves in an enjoyable way. Not once was I bored or felt like I was just vegging out on the couch unless it was earned after a long, productive day.
Then work started. What happened then, well, I am sure you can imagine. All I will say is that it is autumn now, and I am not sure where summer went. Weeks fly by where I either feel too tired or too busy to reach out to my friends. I want to visit, but there does not seem to be enough hours in the day.
I agreed to give this job the next 4 years of my life, and I absolutely intend to do so. I will give it my all and hope to make it out of there alive while hopefully saving the majority of the income, thus spending these next handful of years investing in my future.
I don’t know what will happen after that. Ideally, a side hustle or two have started to grow legs and the emergency fund is providing a healthy cushion.
Let’s escape this hamster wheel together! Consuming less and saving more will benefit the planet as well as ourselves.