Hey there Zen Organizers,
This week was my first week back to the office after the lockdown. And let me say that it is has been quite a shock.
Early on during the lockdown, I realized how much time I spent daily between work and transportation and how much time I gained from not commuting to work regularly. For me, commuting to work represents 12 and a half hours every week. That’s huge! And some people spend even more time than this for their commute.
How do they manage it? I feel like I don’t have time for anything else than work and transportation. I get back home, and I barely have time to answer my basic needs of eating and bathing. I have no time for hobbies, relaxation, or social connection. And I don’t even have kids!
How can we call this living? This is not living; this is a form of enslavement. We don’t work to live; we solely live to work since we don’t have time for anything else.
Of course, one could say that I decided to live far from work or to choose a job that was far from home. But the truth is that it’s not really a fair choice, is it?
In most cases, people have to choose between:
a) living in a big metropolitan city, always busy and noisy, polluted, from which, in the case of Milan, almost every citizen escapes during the weekend to go to the mountains or the sea – because, let’s face it, they need a pause from the chaos – BUT where your daily commute is potentially shorter and where the job market is much bigger;
or b) living in a smaller city where the quality of life is better BUT where there aren't many work opportunities. As a result, you likely have to work in the nearest metropolis, consequently losing much more time commuting.
In the former case, you have more time daily, but the quality of life is lower, whereas in the latter, you have less time, but the quality of life is likely to be higher. I don’t think either possibility is fair.
Most importantly, I don’t understand why nobody truly addresses this issue. Why do most jobs have to be in big cities? Why can’t we relocalize the job market in smaller towns? Why can’t we promote part-time or full-time telework for jobs that can be performed remotely? All these possibilities would help solve so many issues: traffic in metropolitan areas, air pollution, stress-related health problems, issues correlated with a sedentary lifestyle, road accidents, etc.
I think such measures would have a highly positive impact on society as a whole and people in general.
When I think about everything I could do if, instead of spending 12.5 hours per week on public transport, I only had to spend about 150 minutes. I would have 10 hours more per week to dedicate to my hobbies and passions, to social connection, to taking care of myself and my loved ones. All these aspects, which are crucial to our well-being and happiness, are unfortunately too often sacrificed because we don’t have enough time to simply enjoy life after the never-ending combo métro-boulot-dodo (a French expression representing the monotonous and repetitive lives of most urban citizens: métro = commute, boulot = work, and dodo = sleep).
Imagine all the good things we could do if we collectively had more time. People could dedicate more time to volunteer, get involved in their community, spend more quality time with their friends and family, learn new skills, grow their organic food, cook healthy meals, exercise more... This list could go on and on. I believe people would be happier and healthier if we worked less and/or spent less time commuting. This would in turn positively impact our relationships, our society, the environment, and much more.
The way I see it, the only aspect that could be “negatively” impacted by this shift is the economy. Indeed, if people were happier and more satisfied with their lives, they wouldn’t spend as much on useless objects. They would also rely less on ready-made products and the services of others since they’d have more time to do and make things by themselves. Moreover, we could go back to bartering objects and talents between individuals, without necessarily using money as a medium.
However, wouldn’t it also be an improvement if we changed the way our deeply flawed economic system currently works? We can’t continue to worship infinite growth when our resources are finite. We need to redefine the economy and the place it holds in our lives and our world. Putting work back where it belongs, that is as a means to live and not as the central element of our lives, would be an excellent first step to redefine our economy and our way of life. Wouldn’t you say?
And you, Zen Organizers, do you think you spend too much time at work and/or in transportation? Would you work less or work closer to home if you could? Would your life be more zen, organized, and meaningful this way? Let me know in the comments below, on Instagram, or on Facebook!
I wish it already is,
Cover image credit: ©Anto, 2012