By Rowena Blythe
“No more student lie-ins” screamed the Daily Express as other media outlets piled in to intone that students can’t be bothered to get out of their beds for eight o’clock lectures.
Although Durham University has since decided to not proceed with 8am lectures for the upcoming year, the sorry charade has unmasked the primordial need for the University to consult its students. Many students describe feeling “isolated” and “stressed” due to the “overambitious aims to expand the university”.
Universities all over Britain are reporting similar timetabling issues due to their expansion plans, placing unnecessary worry on the student body, studies report.
Universities all over Britain are reporting similar timetabling issues due to their expansion plans
Indeed, since 2008 student demand for counselling has risen by a third within the UK and universities seek solutions to growing mental health concerns. The question is: how to foster student satisfaction?
Over the past decade, many universities have turned higher education into money-making schemes. The University of East Anglia and Brunel University London already run lectures until 8pm, which has led to much protest.
A growing body of research and corporate case studies suggest that a transition to a shorter work day will lead to increased productivity, improved health, and higher employee-retention rates in the world of work. But is this the case?
“Working time, perhaps second only to wages, is the working condition that has the most direct impact on the day-to-day lives of workers”, claims the International Labour Organisation.
In a bid to increase employee wellbeing, Sweden embarked on an experiment about the future of work: they introduced the ‘six-hour work day’.
The experiment took place in several smaller companies within the Gothenburg conurbation and it lasted a year. It was concluded that a shorter workday results in employees working more efficiently, being happier and being far less likely to call in sick.
The experiment concluded that a shorter work day results in employees working more efficiently, being happier and being far less likely to call in sick.
“We’ve had 40 years of a 40 hour work week, and now we’re looking at a society with higher sick leaves and early retirement. We want a new discussion in Sweden about how work life should be to maintain a good welfare state for the next 40 years” said Daniel Bernmar, the man behind the trial.
Bertrand Russell, the famous British philosopher, did not enjoy working. He would have condoned the “six-hour work day” trial and pushed for it to be even shorter. He believed that if society were better organised the average person would only have to work four hours a day. The remainder of the day would be dedicated to science, painting and writing.
Charles Darwin worked for two 90-minute segments each morning, followed by an hour later on. Henri Poincaré worked from 10- 12 then 5- 7pm. Similar routines feature in the daily lives of such people as Thomas Jefferson, Alice Munro and John le Carré to name but a few.
Predictions for the future?
Alex Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, says that the relic of the 9-to-5 workday is no longer relevant in today’s modern society. His answer to the age-old question of how many hours of concentrated work we should do: 4.
His answer to the age-old question of how many hours of concentrated work we should do: 4.
Ultimately, shorter days produce much happier people. They grant both employees and students with much-needed breathing space and prevent the fast-pace of our society today from engulfing the stressed.
Perhaps it’s time now to listen to Nobel-prize winner Bertrand Russell.
Featured Image: sean808080 via Flickr Creative Commons