Time to get out more?

If you are back at work today after the Monday Bank Holiday - bad luck. Why didn't you take the rest of the week off? It is half-term you know. (And if you are on holiday, why are you reading this at all?)

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Admittedly, there is always that moment at the start of a break - when the kids are playing up - that you remember with a certain distaste why work can in fact be so much easier than being on holiday. In the office there is order (sort of), respect (ditto), and not so many tears (you hope). There is also less nagging and bickering.

But Bank Holidays - even wet ones - are a good time to remember that we are here to do more than simply meet our professional, contractual obligations. The "always on", 24/7 job has sucked the life out of too many of us. For many people, careers have become a joyless, energy-sapping drudge. As the sociologist Richard Sennett observed at the Hay literary festival this weekend - and why was he working on a Sunday? - including travel time, the length of the average British working day now stands at around 12 hours, up two and a half hours in the last 20 years. "And that time," he said, "is taken away from one thing: your family."

Now, perhaps, like the late Nicholas Ridley, former secretary of state at the DTI, you may feel that the last thing you want to do is "spend more time with the family". That's your choice.

But to be a better and more effective business person, you probably do need to get our more, and spend less time at work. Read a book. Watch a film. Go to a lecture. Talk to people who work in completely unrelated fields. Go for a walk. Visit a new city.

This fast-moving, globalised age requires more, not less sophisticated leaders. It needs people who are broader, not narrower, in their interests.

"What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?"

Hurry up and slow down.

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