I intended to finish and post this piece during the part of the day generally referred to as “lunch time,” a time of day also sometimes referred to as “lunch break.”
But I didn’t get it finished mid-day because I did that most American of things and worked through the lunchtime hour.
(Fun walk back in time: Kim Severson on how the tech era in San Francisco killed the lunch hour — written in 2000 (!), when Severson was a staff writer at The San Francisco Chronicle.)
(Less fun, but on the same theme: How Capitalism Stole Your Lunch Break.)
[Interesting side note: Lunch break policies vary state by state, and there is no federal law requiring them. The lunch break law in Tennessee (an “at-will” state) is tellingly short and vague:
State law requires that employees must be provided a thirty (30) minute unpaid meal or rest period if scheduled six (6) consecutive hours, except in workplace environments that by their nature of business provides for ample opportunity to rest or take an appropriate break.
In my personal experience, having worked in a variety of corporate, government, and social sector environments, I’ve both heard and said (often) a familiar and frequent refrain that goes something like, “I’m working through lunch so I can cut out early.”
On a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, one might utter such a phrase because of an after-work obligation — an exercise class, social event, or child’s soccer game.
On a Thursday or Friday, though, “…so I can cut out early” most often translates, “…so I can start the weekend early.”
Perhaps you’re thinking: Didn’t all of that change during the pandemic?
To which I would counter: Did it, really?
For those of us who have been able to work from home for the better part of the last two years, the once-dependable rhythm of days, weeks, and months has been fun-house-mirror distorted. Speaking only for myself here, the most challenging part has been the never-ending unpredictability. While the super basic, hum-drum routine of M-F, 8-6 work week was often soul-sucking, it was nevertheless a stabilizing force that alleviated decision-making in ways none of could have imagined we’d miss.
And then, without warning, we had weeks and months of nothing but Blursday.
And the, REALLY without warning, we had (and are still having) weeks and months of no-wo/man’s land, unsure if we should buck up and get things back in routine order or not.
Some workplaces are shifting to a four-day week (typically Monday-Thursday, though it really is to early to call any of it “typical,” right?).
The thinking behind the movement is that a four-day workweek/three-day weekend would be more humane, give people more balance between “work” and “life,” as the impossible equation would have it. Criticism of the idea often focuses on customer impact or fears about lost productivity (despite evidence to the contrary on that second one).
An obvious challenge would be the practicality of four-day weeks for, say, teachers. Would a four-day work week also mean a four-day school week? If not, then what’s the impact on parents and children, considering that many parents depend (or used to depend) upon school as child care during working hours. We’ve already seen the inherent fragility (brokenness) of that system. Would a four-day week make it better or worse?
A different approach, perhaps, might be to shift the way we think about the work week, at least for office work. What if the expectation were that meetings, production, or client-facing work happen Monday-Thursday, leaving Fridays open to catch up, close out, and prepare for the following week. I’m no fortune teller, but I can imagine that’s what the reality might be, anyway, if the office world ever did shift to a four-day week.
I’m biased on this last point, as that’s been the practice at Kindred Place for many years now. The bulk of our work-work happens Monday-Thursday, and Fridays are for paperwork or clean up or creative time.
So for me, as I tidy up this post late on a Thursday evening, it’s not yet the end of the work week, but it is the end of the busy days, heading into Friday as a wrap-up day, and then to a weekend break. I’ll leave that thought dangling and pick up there tomorrow.
See you then?
A sampling, if you’re interested in reading more about the four-day workweek:
“Why we need to consider switching to a 4-day workweek – now” (TED, July 2021)
“The 4-day workweek gains traction in Congress” (MSNBC, December 2021)
“After the shift to remote work, new hope for the four-day workweek” (Computerworld, January 2022)
Ah, yes; food. (See? I didn’t forget.)
I made something interesting that I’ll write more about this weekend. (Short version? Think: seven layer dip, only with four layers, and the layers were leftover grits, a can of refried beans, leftover green chile chicken, and shredded cheese.)
Since I’m saving that “recipe” for later, I’ll offer a link to something I’m planning (?) to make this weekend — an old favorite: Root Vegetable Galette with Farmer’s Cheese. It’s delicious, I promise.