Monday, 6 March 2017


                             Work breaks: whatever happened to coffee?

THE SWEDES have done it again.

The Swedish people, that is. Not the rather underrated vegetable: that is a column for another day.

In a bid to keep their workers happy and productive, they recently proposed that all gainfully employed adults should take an hour during the working day to, ahem...get together with their spouse or partner.

I remember a time when the height of indulgence was an office kettle.

It's all very scientific, of course. Isn't everything? Studies have shown that a good um, relationship with one's partner is vital for one's health and well-being, and the longevity of said relationship. And happier people make happier workers.

Let's face it, it doesn't take science to convince us of that. But I'm not convinced the middle of the working day is the right time.

Don't get me wrong. I remember a time in Ireland when it was perfectly acceptable to smoke in the workplace, and the height of indulgence was an office kettle.  

But whatever about Sweden (where much is done differently), I can't really see the whole idea catching on here.

To begin with, it all seems rather unmanageable. I know people who commute two hours a day for work. No calculator needed for that maths.

I could imagine a lot of people pretending to be single.

Not to mention the fact that it's a bit unfair to anyone who's not in a relationship. Although presumably they would still get the hour off to do whatever they want.

Like go for a walk. Or a run. Maybe do a bit of shopping, or meet a friend for coffee. Given those arguably civilised alternatives, I could imagine a lot of people who might pretend to be single.

And then there's the other problem. We Irish generally don't discuss that aspect of our lives. Not with our parents or our children. Usually not even with our doctor. And certainly not with people at work.

It's not that we have any hang ups. The only reason I'm dancing around the subject here, is because this is a family friendly column. Ahem. 

But no self-respecting Irish person wants to arrive back to work for the afternoon, knowing that everyone else knows about their shenanigans during the previous hour. And knowing that their colleagues were up to the same shenanigans.

No matter that it might make everyone happier and kinder and more relaxed. Which is the thinking behind this Swedish idea.

Skiving off for a bit of personal relations is a sticky wicket.

We'd prefer our boss to see us standing on a table, screeching tunelessly at the Christmas party, thanks to seven glasses of spiked punch, than suffer the mortification of him/her knowing that we have an er, active love life.

Besides, there's far cooler workplace initiatives that we could embrace: better biscuits, hand lotion in the loos, lots of plants...we could lose the run of ourselves!

But skiving off for a bit of personal relations is a sticky wicket.
The next thing we'd know, we'd all be expecting flexi-time for young parents, or bring-your-child-to-work days.

Or bring-your-pet-to-work days, for that matter.

There's no need for any of it. Here in Ireland, we excel at drinking away our tensions and work anxieties in the pub every weekend. With the bonus of a weekend that can begin any day of the week.

Why we'd ever need to swap this, for improving our personal relationship with our life partner, is a complete mystery.


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