Beyond the neon runes

1577

What a way to make a living

How’s your week going? That bad, huh? Not to worry, you’re almost there now, just two more days to go. Two more days till you’re free, till you can drop everything and run out the door, hands pressed against your ears in case anyone mentions overtime.

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Two more days till the weekend, till that Friday feeling, till those delicious few moments before 5pm when you know you’ve made it to the end of another week but just want to savour it. Two more days until the good times return, till the party begins, till the laughing starts, till you can finally relax and have a nice, refreshing lie-in.

Bad news though; it’s only five days until the start of another week, and only four days until you’ll have to start worrying about it again. Pretty soon that Friday feeling will be replaced by its close cousins, the Sunday fear and the Monday blues. And while the former can lift one’s spirits high up into the sky, the latter pair take great pleasure in bringing those spirits plummeting back to earth.

But this is just how things are, this is the world we’ve created for ourselves. You’re born, you go to school, you get a job, you work, you retire, and then you die.

And like the fools we are, we just accept this, never once thinking to query the injustice of it all. I mean, why should we go to an office, a factory, or a building site five days of the week, and the pub only two? Why can’t it be the other way around, why can’t we work for two days and have the rest of the week to ourselves?

I suppose you can do that, you can have the entire week to yourself if you want, but that’s called unemployment, and that’s no fun at all.

No, what I want is to work less but get paid the same. I want to be able to go to bed on a Sunday night without fear, without that growing sense of dread, without five days of servitude ahead of me. Ideally I’d just like to work Tuesdays and maybe a few hours on Wednesday afternoon, but I’d settle for an extra day off, an extra day spent lying in bed making plans that will never come to fruition.

At various times in our history a four-day week has been mooted as a viable alternative to the current, punitive system. But only as a way of keeping people in jobs, of ensuring businesses don’t go under. Rarely have we considered just giving ourselves an extra day off. Because it wouldn’t work, there’s barely enough time in the week to get everything done as it is. That’s how the narrative goes anyway, that’s what they’d have you believe.

However, following a landmark trial in New Zealand they may just have to think again.

The trial, which saw employees at Perpetual Guardian, a company that manages trusts, wills and estate planning, work four days a week but get paid for five, was an unmitigated success. Carried out during March and April of this year, this novel idea was the brainchild of the company’s founder, Andrew Barnes. He wanted to give each of his 240 staff a better work/life balance, the hope being that the extra day off would alleviate the stresses of their home lives and lead to improved focus during office hours.

And, according to the academics who studied the effects of trial, this is exactly what happened.

Previous figures had suggested that only 54 per cent of staff felt they could effectively manage their work/life balance, but during the four-day week this figure rose to 78 per cent. Furthermore, stress levels in the workplace decreased 7 per cent during the trial, with overall life satisfaction rising by 5 per cent.

Andrew Barnes

But none of this should come as a great surprise; these people were working less hours for the same money, they were bound to be happier. What’s really interesting though, is the stance taken by the paymasters, the ones with the power to change the way things work.

First off, the lovable, caring man who agreed to this experiment, Andrew Barnes: “If you can have parents spending more time with their children, how is that a bad thing? Are you likely to get fewer mental health issues when you have more time to take care of yourself and your personal interests? Probably . . . if you have fewer people in the office at any one time, can we make smaller offices?”

What a guy. Why can’t all bosses be like this, their primary concern the welfare and wellbeing of the people who work for them, rather than the bottom line?

The fact that Barnes is a notable philanthropist with considerable personal wealth can, for the purposes of this article, be conveniently overlooked.

Still though, the idea piqued the interest of government officials, with New Zealand’s workplace relations minister stating that he’s, “really keen to work with any businesses that are looking at how they can be more flexible for their staff and how they can look to improve productivity whilst working alongside their staff and protecting terms and conditions.”

If that sounds a little bit unconvincing it’s probably because it is. That keenness will always be trumped by practicality, and despite the best intentions of Barnes, and the joyous atmosphere he’s created at Perpetual Guardian, this experiment will undoubtedly remain just that.

Why? Because they’re afraid.

Imagine the panic in the corridors of power if this was implemented on a wider scale, if it made its way to Ireland and our already tranquil workplaces.

Because whereas countries like New Zealand are built on graft and the concept of an honest day’s work, we, on the whole, believe that anything that can be put off till tomorrow probably isn’t worth doing until sometime next week. There’d be widespread chaos if we adopted a four-day week, we’d use it an excuse to do even less, reasoning that they wouldn’t have given us an extra day off if they were busy. And we’d resent having to go in even more, sulking when Leo wouldn’t agree to change Bank Holiday Mondays to Bank Holiday Tuesdays.

And if somehow it were a success, if productivity levels remained the same while work/life balances improved, sure then we’d only start hankering for a three-day week. “Look how happy we are now,” we’d reason, “imagine how delighted we’d be if you gave us four days off.”

Before long we’d be outside Dáil Éireann, demanding that work be outlawed altogether, that we be free to live our lives the way we want and get paid to do so – by the EU, the troika, or whoever looks after these things.

That’d be fine for a while. But then we’d get bored. We’d start looking for somewhere to go during the day, somewhere other than the pub. We’d start gathering together, making little things, selling them, using the money to make more little things. And when someone else asked us to make the little things for them instead, and that they’d pay us to do, we’d say, “Ah yeah, sure why not?”

 

Set all your photos to private, before it’s too late

Unrequited love, is there anything as painful?

All those hours spent pining, wishing they were there beside you, convincing yourself that life genuinely isn’t worth living without them. And while you yearn for the one thing you can’t have, other, more realistic, opportunities, pass you by; a stream of potentially perfect paramours coming and going, ignored and unnoticed as you obsess about ‘the one.’

Eventually, after a few months, or maybe even years, you come to your senses, realise that it was never going to happen and find someone who likes you just as much as you like them.

But what if it didn’t have to be like that? What if you could have anyone you wanted, whenever you wanted?

Well, thanks to the wonders of technology, that day might not be far off.

By combining robotics with 3D printers, a Chinese company believes it can create artificially intelligent sex robots from scans of real people. So, for example, if you had access to your crush’s Facebook photos, it would just be a case of choosing your favourite one, uploading it to the printer and then using it to create a doll in the image of your beloved.

What you would do with that doll would be entirely up to yourself.

Discussing the motives behind this idea, Professor Kathleen Richardson said, “Porn has created a culture of dehumanised males who cannot engage in empathetic relationships with women. The growth of sex tech is targeted at this market of males no longer able to relate.”

That we’ve created a generation of men who’d rather copulate with an inanimate object than a walking, talking human being, is worrying in of itself. But not half as worrying as someone on your friends’ list having a replica of you upstairs in their bedroom.