Cata­lans take steps to har­monise work hours

The Guardian Weekly - - Diversions - Sam Jones

Cat­alo­nia has moved a step closer to aban­don­ing the long work­ing hours and pro­tracted lunch breaks that have tested Spa­niards’ pow­ers of en­durance for more than seven decades by adopt­ing an ini­tia­tive to re­set peo­ple’s work-life bal­ance.

Last week, an al­liance of 110 com­pa­nies, trade unions, ed­u­ca­tional groups and so­cial ac­tivists signed up to a work­ing hours re­form pact, which aims to make the work­ing day shorter and more flex­i­ble.

Work­ers in Spain tend to start their day around 9am, break for cof­fee mid-morn­ing and then work un­til 2pm. The lunch break lasts two or three hours, af­ter which they re­turn to work un­til 8pm or later.

Such a late fin­ish means that din­ner isn’t eaten be­fore 9pm. Add in a cou­ple of hours of TV to help wind down, and peo­ple end up go­ing to bed well af­ter mid­night.

Fabian Mo­hedano, a spokesman for Re­forma Horària, the group be­hind the pact, said the long and dis­jointed work­ing day was af­fect­ing peo­ple’s well­be­ing and fam­ily lives.

“The anal­y­sis is all very sim­ple,” he said. “We have a prob­lem with our work­ing hours, which have a di­rect im­pact on our health.

“Why? Be­cause of cir­ca­dian rhythms and be­cause we’ve stopped do­ing what mil­lions of peo­ple do all over the world: eat­ing break­fast early in the morn­ing, hav­ing lunch be­tween 12pm and 2pm; eat­ing din­ner be­tween 7pm and 9pm. We don’t eat break­fast in the morn­ing as we’ve gone to bed on a full stom­ach be­cause we’ve eaten din­ner so late the night be­fore.”

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