Saint Monday – Down Tools! … or NOT! Covid-19 edition.

Saint Monday

‘Saint Monday’, the practice of taking Monday off, semi-officially or at least tolerated was not uncommon among artisans prior to the introduction of the traditional weekend we enjoy now.

The Covid-19 pandemic has given many the opportunity to think about the way we work, how much we do and where we do it from. Working From Home (WFH) has become popular for some, especially those with space at home freed up with children having left home, the ’empty nest’ can an is often transformed into a home office! As time passes WFH is losing some of it’s lustre amongst some employers and younger employees who miss the social and networking opportunities. As we think about transitioning from TOIL to TOYL this may be an opportunity to WFH.

An interesting study has shown that not surprisingly introverts prefer WFH, but surprisingly extroverts work best in a WFH environment by reaching out more even from home and being more efficient overall.

This may be the antidote to a sudden ‘falling off the log’ situation and could even be combined with that move away, down sizing and that dram move to a country cottage – with it’s Shepherds Hut at the end of the garden!

Think about winding down gradually and have a look at my Wind Down Gently blog.


I wrote a blog on giving it all up and retiring early so FIRE NOW (Financial Independence Retire Early) could be the antidote! Alternatives include look at prolonging the work phase and retiring later BUT having some of the retirement leisure and positives NOW!

Is it possible to TOYL and work, albeit at a slower less pressured pace? Maybe it is and maybe in future it will have to be. I’ve been reading the reading “The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity” by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott – a hugely interesting take on what challenges our children and grandchildren might have to deal with when faced with a likely lifespan of 100 years or so. Certainly, the traditional retirement with a pension in ones 60s will not be able to be funded on current terms so in future the working lifetime will need to be extended albeit possibly with breaks and periods of retraining. Is it likely that even with improved healthcare and healthy lifestyles the workers of tomorrow will be able to work at even the traditional 9am to 5pm, 5-day week? Probably not! I wonder then that since we are our children’s primary teachers and role models we shouldn’t lead by example and reduce the hours and or days we spend at work, improve our lifestyle, reduce stress, and probably extend our longevity too.

There has been a creep in the extension of working hours over the centuries and especially with the industrial revolution and electric lighting. Prior to this, working hours were restricted by the seasons, daylight or inclement weather outside. In the UK from the years 1200 to 1600, working hours were between 1,500 and 2,000 hours per year. By 1840, when the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, annual working hours had leapt up to approximately 3,500 with 70-hour weeks and no leave not unheard of.

There are many ways in which the week could be restructured with the working day shortened and or a four-day working week as examples. In the past the working week was Monday to Saturday when pay was received. Saint Monday, the practice of taking Monday off, semi-officially or at least tolerated was not uncommon among artisans prior to the introduction of the traditional weekend we enjoy now. Saint Monday remained in place longest among better-off workers and the self-employed who retained some say in their hours and were not economically compelled to work long hours. It is believed that the present-day concept of the ‘week-end’ first arose in the industrial north of Britain in the early part of nineteenth century and was originally a voluntary arrangement between factory owners and workers allowing Saturday afternoon off from 2pm in agreement that staff would be available for work sober and refreshed on Monday morning thus avoiding Saint Monday absenteeism. The licensing laws in many countries helped this by making Sunday drinking hours restricted or as in some parts of Wales even until recently pubs were closed all day. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Union were the first to successfully demand and achieve a five-day work week only as recently as 1929.

Some of us may have the opportunity to drop a day or work fewer hours a day for less pay – a four day working week at 80% of full pay or 6 hours a day rather than 8 for the same reduction in salary. That’s been done and works well for some including those reducing their work commitment whilst moving towards retirement and a life of TOYL in the afternoons or that extra day off. However more interesting research has looked at just cramming more work into less hours at work for the same pay. Too good to be true? Well possibly yes, but there seem to be pros and cons.


For some Swedish nurses fantasy became reality in a trial of six instead of eight hour working days whilst earning full-time wages.

Pros – absenteeism reduced, productivity levels were boosted, and workers’ health improved with sick leave reduced by 10%. Staff were able to provide a higher quality of care to patients as they were less stressed and more alert. These benefits were most noticeable in those nurses with children who had more time to recuperate as well as having more time to play with and help children with their homework etc.

Over a decade ago Toyota’s Service Centre reduced the number of daily hours to six and reported a lower turnover rate, increased profits and boosted productivity. This is thus another way to both increase parents’ access to work and alleviate some of the discriminatory factors that still make women the main provider of unpaid work. So, if our children are going to have to work for many more years possibly retiring in their late 70s or 80s a shorter working day is not a utopian dream, rather it’s a policy tool to create a more sustainable working life and labour market. Although more expensive, what if working less is the key to a sustaining an overall longer working life?

Cons – The shortened hours resulted in having to hire extra nurses and these excess costs were deemed to outweigh the benefits.

The retirement age is a fixed point in many countries albeit upwardly mobile, whereas my mother was able to collect her state pension at 60 I’ll be 68! In physically demanding professions such as construction or care, working full time into your 70s would seem a huge challenge. Reduced daily working hours could help with this.

Employing more care workers amounted to a 20% increase in costs in the Swedish trial above. At first glance a staggering excess cost burden, however, unemployment, poor working conditions, early retirement and sick leave are hugely costly to society and some of the cost of employing the new care workers is offset by lower payments from the social security system.  Taking this into account the net increase in cost drops to 10% and this still doesn’t take into account any long-term positive effects which may well lower the total even further.


Emma Jacobs AUGUST 6, 2018 Financial Times

Every year between May and September, all 54 employees of Basecamp, a Chicago-based web applications company, work a short week: just four days — a total of 32 hours. They work a conventional five-day week the rest of the year. “That’s plenty of time to get great work done. This is all we expect and all we want from people,” says Jason Fried, co-founder. “Working 50, 60, 70-plus [hours] is unnecessary. In fact, if you have to work 50, 60, 70-plus hours a week, there’s a management problem.” The company’s summer workload must fit reduced hours, Mr Fried insists, otherwise the benefits of a shorter week — to recover from work, enjoy time with family and pursue outside interests — would be undone. His philosophy chimes with new research that finds it is not just long hours that are harmful to employees’ physical and mental health. It is also the intensity of work — tight deadlines and a relentless pace. Moreover, it suggests that intense work harms career prospects. That is because excessive hours and intensity are counterproductive, reducing the quality of the work.

So, think about cutting hours and or days worked as part of a transition from TOIL to TOYL. Interestingly avoiding stress and burnout may actually result in us being able to extend our working lives AND transition to a ‘planned retirement’ by reducing TOIL and increasing TOYL rather more gracefully and gently than if we were to ‘fall off the cliff’!!


An 18th-century folk song from Sheffield, England to finish off with!  “The Jovial Cutler”, portrays a craftsman enjoying a lazy Saint Monday, much to the dismay of his wife!

Brother workmen, cease your labour,
Lay your files and hammers by.
Listen while a brother neighbour
Sings a cutler’s destiny:
How upon a good Saint Monday,
Sitting by the smithy fire,
We tell what’s been done o’t Sunday,
And in cheerful mirth conspire.

Soon I hear the trap-door rise up,
On the ladder stands my wife:
“Damn thee, Jack, I’ll dust thy eyes up,
Thou leads a plaguy drunken life;
Here thou sits instead of working
Wi’ thy pitcher on thy knee;
Curse thee, thou’d be always lurking
And I may slave myself for thee.”

“Ah, the bright, fat, idle devil
Now I see thy goings on,
Here thou sits all day to revel
Ne’er a stroke o’ work thou’st done.
See thee, look what stays I’ve gotten,
See thee, what a pair o’ shoes;
Gown and petticoat half rotten,
Ne’er a whole stitch in my hose.

“Pray thee, look here, all the forenoon
Thou’s wasted with thy idle way;
When does t’a mean to get thy sours done?
Thy mester wants ’em in to-day.
Thou knows I hate to broil and quarrel,
But I’ve neither soap nor tea;
Od burn thee, Jack, forsake thy barrel,
Or nevermore thou’st lie wi’ me.”


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