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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Public Time Management - Do We Have to Have Second Best?

Time management isn't just an individual matter because personal time management is constrained by how public time is managed.

Public time is time organised, structured by government and public institutions.

Government sets clock time (when the clocks go forward and back) and it sets times when shops and offices must close (Sunday Opening hours and such like) and specifies public holiday dates (which are advisory, not compulsory, in the UK)

Office and shop opening hours, school times and terms, court sessions - these are the stuff of public time.

In the UK, we don't do it well.

Public services are heavily disrupted by public holidays - most shops stay open now (except Christmas Day and New Year's Day), but public services take every opportunity to shut up shop. If the clinic you attend is held on a Monday, you are really stuffed because that's when most Public Holidays are scheduled.

Public Holidays also reduce the scope employees have to negotiate their days off with their employer. You just get locked out whether you want it or not, and usually on a wet day (Google "Bank Holiday Washout" for a very large number of results).

Ideally, there should be no public holidays. Staff would agree the time off they wanted on an individual basis. Most employees would want Christmas Day and New Year's Day and a sensible employer would shut down on those days, but the driving force would be employee wishes not government advice.

With no public holidays, the economy would work more efficiently and public services much more efficiently. That would justify an increase in statutory holiday entitlement.

The starting point should be agreement on the number of days to be worked in the year. Let's say 230 (that's 46 five day working weeks). The rest is holiday, but with days to be agreed. There should be no automatic assumption that public services close on Saturdays and Sundays. If a kebab shop with a staff of five can open Saturdays and Sundays so can a GPs surgery.


Added 24 July 2018: This Blog post is expanded into the chapter on Time Management in my book The Best I Can Do (degree zero 2016), freely available from Amazon, Waterstones and other booksellers.

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