An exploration of the multiple motivations for spending less time at work
Previous approaches to short hours employment
|Name||Age||Occupation||Years in short-hour work||Current work schedule|
|Philippe||27||Acoustic engineer||2||3 days a week|
|Audrey||29||Online language teacher||2||Approximately 25 h a week|
|Carly||32||Cancer nurse||5||22.5 h a week|
|Kate||33||Support worker doing live in care||7||2 weeks/1 month off (variable)|
|Micky||33||Climbing training tool manufacturer||12||25–30 h a week (variable)|
|Seth||33||Self-employed gardener||3||4 days a week (irregular schedule)|
|Lucky-Lou||35||Cycle instructor/garden supervisor||6||30 h a week|
|Luke||35||Civil service data analyst||1||4 days a week|
|Claire||37||Ex-care worker now barmaid||6||17–20 h a week (2 shifts)|
|Ronan||37||R & D director||5||25 h a week (5 × 5h)|
|Tom||37||Carpenter||10||Project work: time off = time at work|
|Tony||39||Self-employed disability needs assessor||20||1–2 days a week (variable)|
|Hans||42||Self-employed web designer||9||25–30 h a week|
|Anna||42||Freelance media strategist||3||4 days a week|
|Flora||43||Science teacher||4||4 days a week|
|Paula||43||Educational psychologist||5||3–4 days a week|
|Sarah||43||Freelance digital marketer||2||3 days a week|
|Josie||45||Rope access technician||5||6 months on/6 months off|
|Rhys||45||Patenting lawyer||6||3 days a week|
|Brian||45||English as additional language advisor||5||3.5 days a week|
|Adam||45||High tech electronic consultant||5||Approximately 25 h a week|
|Cath||50||Care assistant||11||Approximately 25 h a week|
|Chris||50||Renewable energy consultant||10||4 days a week|
|Mark||51||Physics teacher||4||2.5 days a week|
|Sadie||51||Learning and development consultant||12||Approximately 25 h a week|
|Phil||52||Data analysis consultant||2||5 weeks on/5 weeks off|
|Rich||52||Sound equipment rigger||8||25 h a week (average across the year)|
|David||52||Science and music teacher at a social, emotional and behavioral difficulties school||5||2.5 days a week|
|John||54||Ex-IT manager now executive director||12||1 day a month|
|Clara||54||Accounts support||20||15 h a week (3 × 5 h)|
|Will||54||Self-employed drummer||30||1 weekend a month (variable)|
|Darren||54||Social enterprise manager||19||24 h a week|
|Jessica||54||National Health Service statistician||12||4 days a week|
|Joe||57||Bike shop manager||23||28 h a week (4 × 7 h)|
|Tom||60||Paramedic||1||20 h a week|
|Edward||60||Design manager in water industry||1||3 days a week|
|Maxwell||62||Ex-design engineer now conservation work||7||1 day a week|
|Kathleen||64||Self-employed dressmaker||13||15 h a week (irregular schedule)|
|Roberta||66||Psychologist||26||2–3 days a month|
|Oliver||69||Photography and film lecturer||40||2.5 days a week|
Results: Push factors
Long hours, work intensity and job satisfaction
It’s quite a constant mental effort, it’s not something you can sort of do, in a sort of freewheeling mode. You do need to concentrate, large chunks of the day. And to be honest I think I find that quite difficult at times so again, working part time has helped with that because I don’t have this… you know, I spend less time doing it basically, less time with this kind of intense mental concentration which I personally found quite difficult when I was working full-time. (Rhys, patenting lawyer, 45).
My dad had a breakdown when I was 14–15 and that was work related and so while he was never […] saying you shouldn’t work full-time, I shouldn’t work hard, there was always a kind of idea that work can be stressful. And while I’ve never had a breakdown or had any kind of mental illness due to work or anything else I mean I certainly can feel work related anxiety (Brian, English as additional language advisor, 45).
I love the job, I think it is very intense and can be quite addictive. Maybe addictive is the wrong word, it’s more like you can become very absorbed and preoccupied with the work and there’s never enough hours in the day, you always wanna do more, you always wanna kind of be more, you always wanna push yourself. I think if you are doing a five day week, there is always a little additional work that’s required so if you are doing a five day week it turns into a six day week, it turns into a six and a bit day week, and you know it never stays in the boundaries that you intend it to stay in. So my rationale was if I work a 3-day week, then I’m probably gunna end up doing a four-day week [laughs] Which is probably not the right way to think about it. (Paula, public sector educational psychologist, 43).
Non-standard working patterns and the experience of time
I was working on the oil rigs for about five years, I was doing a regular two [weeks] on, two [weeks] off for the last two years. And, phew I just got sick of it […]. So, while I enjoyed the time off, I wanted to change the work schedule. […] I found what was happening is I’d say something like, ‘oh you know that was like six months ago’. And realise that was a year ago but I actually disregard all the time I am at work I don’t consider that as part of my life [laughs]. I often wonder if people who go to prison do that. ‘Because you know if you spend a couple of years in prison, do you just kind of write that off because, and time was moving really fast […]. I rather would have big chunks of time off (Josie, roped access technician, 45).
Because […] it tends to be early morning and late night it gets a bit Groundhog Day sometimes […]. If I have got sort of gigs on more than two or three consecutive days then really, I’m working in the morning, coming home, having a bite to eat, getting my head down for a few hours of sleep working in the evening, getting a couple of hours sleep, working in the morning and just repeat. And that feels very pressured ‘cause when it’s like that, there isn’t time to do anything else really. (Rich, sound equipment rigger, 52).
Results: Pull factors
Fragility of life and awakening to the finite nature of time
I just felt a bit more distant from everyone around me. […] I just couldn’t get into the work ethic of working 50 hours a week. You keep going around, what’s the point of this? […] I had, in some people’s eyes, it was a four-bed detached house, […] a brand new van […] new this, new that. And you sit there and you just go, there’s just like an in-satisfaction inside of you. […] It’s not how we’re designed to live. […] You start actually trying look at who you are really. […] And, so that unwinding is probably actually taking time to really, really look at who you are and really what do you want from your time. (Tom, carpenter, 38).
We are both in the mind-set of like, life is short, you need to do what you want to do and make yourself happy and life is not all about nine to five working. So, yeah. I guess that comes from. we lost our dad so maybe it’s like, you know, life is short so since then we’ve both been ‘do what you want.’ (Carly, cancer nurse, 34).
Pull towards other activities and freedom
[Y]ou get to a certain point in your life and […] it was almost like I had a goal and that part of my life and I had achieved it and it was a bit like well what now? And I kind of looked back and thought, you know, I have done a lot of working and I know it sounds a bit morose but I thought to myself you know if I am told that I have got a year left to live then will I be happy with how I have spent my time, you know up to now? And I kinda thought to myself well, no I wanna have some quality time for me. (Paula, public sector educational psychologist, 43).
I have got loads of other interests that I just want to explore. I just don’t want to spend all the time working and ignoring all those. And I mean, in some ways, it stops you from working full-time, because you just, you have more interests, you know? If you didn’t have the interests you could work full-time and it would not be a bother. But, you know, you want to do all sorts of other stuff’. (Joe, bike shop manager, 54).
I feel like climbing is like you’re like trying to get better at this thing and it’s getting this thing that it’s all about in a way […] As in like the big buzz comes from like getting it, and it feels great. You know, I’ve worked really hard and that was really hard, and I’ve done it. […] Whereas, I’d say with surfing, it’s more like, related to like this, like buzz […] of it happening. (Seth, self-employed gardener, 33).
Another motivation for going freelance is I write and I’ve been working on a novel for ages and I just found like every time I was getting some traction on it, something big would blow up at work, and you’d end up working late every day, and then most weekends. So I found that I was stalled. So I wanted to make the time, create time to write. Since then I have written two drafts [of the] novel so it has definitely step-changed the writing process (Anna, freelance media strategist, 42).
I don’t really want to do what someone else tells me to do all the time, I had rather just organise my own time so that’s why I would rather do agency work […] like if I want to go and see someone for a couple of days or something I don’t wanna think, oh no I have got work! That sort of thing so I like having more freedom to like make up my own schedule of what I want to do. (Kate, support worker, 33).
I feel it’s much more balanced in terms of life not being too dominated by work really. And, it is more the feeling of freedom. (Rhys, patenting lawyer, 45).
A lot of my friends, the ones with the great jobs they’re spending all of their time working and then when they are not working they are buying the world’s most expensive fridge, or something else you can really do without. You don’t really need an 8-foot-high fridge, do you? And if it is a choice of between having a corporate job and a small fridge I am happy to have a smaller fridge. (Tim, ex-IT manager, 54).
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
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