- In the United States, white-collar workers work longer than peers in most advanced countries
- Brigid Schulte: We need to recapture our lost leisure; more work doesn't raise productivity
- She says companies reward workers for how long they sit at their desks, not for what they do
While working on "The Last Supper," Leonardo da Vinci regularly took off from painting for several hours at a time and seemed to be daydreaming aimlessly. Urged by his patron, the prior of Santa Maria delle Grazie, to work more continuously, da Vinci is reported to have replied, immodestly but accurately, "The greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less." --Tony Schwartz, "Be Excellent at Anything"
In his 1932 classic essay, "In Praise of Idleness," Bertrand Russell heralded a coming time when modern technology would bring shorter work hours and time for leisure to be enjoyed equally by everyone.
Work and leisure both would be "delightful," and the world would be the better for it. "Every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving . . . Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness and dyspepsia."
Russell, along with scholars like Josef Pieper, author of "Leisure, the Basis of Culture," thought that it is in moments of leisure that civilization gets created. Both were extraordinarily productive, despite their call for what may today be seen as slacking.
But they argued that it is only when we take the time to lift our noses from the grindstone and are not busy with the getting, making and doing that ensures our survival, that flights of imagination, bursts of insight can lead to inventions like the wheel, art, philosophy, literature, scientific discoveries and innovation.
At the turn of the 20th century, leisure time was the ultimate status symbol, a way not only of conspicuously showing off your wealth, but of your ability to enjoy the best that life had to offer. Even those without wealth in the labor movement sought a living wage and shorter work hours so they could, as a famous protest song of the time put it, not only have their bread, but the time to enjoy the roses, the fruits of their labor.
Ironically, it was only when Henry Ford took the wildly controversial step of shuttering his automobile manufacturing factories on Saturday and cutting daily work hours from the then-standard 12 to 8 that workers began not only enjoying leisure time at home, but became more efficient and productive at work.
Though his fellow captains of industry screamed in protest, Ford