I’m sure there are people who are happy working nine to five (or similar hours), but I’ve met very few of them. All too often, working 8+ hours a day seems to make us tired, stressed and irritable. But why?
I don’t think long hours themselves are explicitly the problem. Many people who are starting their own businesses work extremely long hours. Though this probably isn’t great for their health, they likely find it preferable to working nine to five. Why? Because they are working on their own terms, on something they chose to work on and which presumably they are very passionate about.
How does this compare to working for someone else? Especially with the current economic climate, many of us take whatever work we can get. This means we may end up doing work we don’t believe in. Additionally, many jobs, such as stacking shelves and administrative work, are mind-numbingly repetitive.
Devoting so many of our working hours to something we find boring, meaningless or worse can take a huge toll on our health. We feel powerless, and enslaved to a job we don’t enjoy.
After a full day of mundane work, most of us have little energy remaining for anything else. Hobbies and time with loved ones may fall by the wayside. We have little energy left over to cook ourselves healthy meals. And even if our jobs are sedentary, we may feel too tired to exercise.
Meanwhile, feelings of stress and hopelessness can make us irritable towards our loved ones and anyone we live with. So having a job we dislike can be damaging for our relationships along with our mental and physical health.
Many solutions have been proposed for helping busy people relax, de-stress and improve their relationships. But these solutions often don’t work in the long-term, and in my opinion, this is because they don’t treat our busyness as the root cause of the problem.
Work less, live more. It’s easy to say, but for most of us it’s not so easy to implement. The issue is that we have bills to pay! Our feelings of powerlessness can make us feel trapped, preventing us from thinking outside the box when it comes to income.
Some of us would be able to afford to work less if we cut down on our expenses. Frugality can bring freedom. I appreciate that many people are already being forced to cut down their expenses as much as possible. But others of us may feel too busy and stressed to change energy supplier or stick to a grocery budget. We’re caught in a cycle of being too busy to budget and having to work more and make more money to compensate. And this only perpetuates our busyness!
There are so many things we can do to save money; that isn’t really what this post is about, but some ideas could be:
- Walking, running or doing workout videos instead of the gym
- Cancelling subscriptions like Netflix and watching free content online – or finding other free activities to do
- Batch cooking meals at weekends to avoid expensive pre-prepared meals
- Making sure you’re on the cheapest deals for energy, insurance etc
- Downsizing your home or moving to a cheaper area if possible and practical
MoneySavingExpert has tons more ideas.
A few factors, somewhat unique to modern life and Western cultures, are exacerbating the culture of overworking and job dissatisfaction. One is the obsession with moving out of our parents’ homes as soon as possible. It’s seen as shameful to be living with your parents once you exit your teens.
But for the most part, this is quite irrational. Living with parents is far cheaper for most people; having several working adults in a house reduces expenses for everyone. That ideally allows everyone to work less and/or save more.
With low wages and high living costs, living independently often means struggling along, barely making ends meet. It can be lonely too. Living as a family unit can provide a support network.
If you’re saving up for something such as your own home, paying a ton of rent in the meantime is less than ideal. So if you can reduce that expense by moving home, it’s a smart thing to do.
In many cultures, it’s perfectly normal to have many generations under one roof. Maybe it’s time to end the stigma associated with living with our parents.
Unfortunately, some of us have parents who are overbearing or abusive, and others of us can’t move home for other reasons. If this is the case, all is not lost. Living in a houseshare can cut costs, for those who aren’t already doing this. And there are plenty of more creative solutions, as we’ll see later on.
Another feature of our society is that both members of a couple usually have to work in order to cover housing costs. This means chores may get neglected, there’s often no one to cook healthy meals, and children may have to be put in daycare.
I’m definitely not suggesting we return to a situation where women are expected to be housewives and nothing more! But if the cost of living wasn’t so obscenely high, partners could both work part-time and each take on some chores too. Or one partner could stay home and one work, if this is what both prefer. This sort of arrangement is already possible for some frugal or higher-income couples.
Escaping from working nine to five
We are rarely as stuck in our jobs as we think we are. But depending on our situation, we may need to be willing to completely reframe our lives.
There are a ton of options for escaping the rent trap and finding more meaning in life. More and more people are now working from home, for example, either running their own business or telecommuting. Some other examples could be taking on volunteer roles with accommodation provided (try sites like Workaway and WWOOF), being an au pair, or house-sitting. There are various intentional communities around the world which are mostly self-sufficient; everyone helps out and little or no financial contribution is required. Joining one may not be easy though, and it’s not likely to be everyone’s cup of tea.
There are also certain jobs with accommodation included. Or you could even cut costs by living in a van, bus, boat, yurt or tiny house!
This is just off the top of my head – of course, there are more options out there. Unfortunately, many require you to be very flexible in terms of location and sometimes time. If you have children or care for a sick relative, this could be challenging. Many parents do make this sort of lifestyle work though – see Jinti Fell’s YouTube channel as an example.
However you escape working nine to five, it can give you the freedom to explore previously impossible options. Starting a business so you can make money from what you love is a great one. So is nurturing a hobby, especially since it could eventually become a career if that’s what you want.
In my opinion, the purpose of life is to live joyfully and creatively, in a way that allows our authentic selves to shine. In this state, we become well-equipped to serve others. We all have skills that we can use to enrich others’ lives, whether we are aware of them or not. But when we are busy and stressed, we have little energy left over for this. Many of us are forced to expend all our energy on helping large (and probably unethical) companies to make more money, for little reward. This can be soul-destroying.
I endlessly admire people with the courage to break away and find their own path in life. Cody, for example, is cycling from London to New Zealand. And I also know people who are pursuing activism full-time and running festivals or creative businesses. I love it when people think outside the box and pursue their passions.
I’m not trying to claim that everyone can or wants to adopt an alternative lifestyle. If you’re happy working nine to five, that’s great! And if you hate your job and feel you have no alternative, finding some kind of purpose in life is still possible and can vastly improve your mental health.
All too often, we trap ourselves in certain situations because change is difficult and painful. Sometimes, our own minds are our main obstacle to escaping unhappy situations. Whatever your situation, and whatever you choose to do next, I wish you the very best of luck.