Time to get to work

James McCarthy
James McCarthy

It’s 0548, New Zealand Standard Time. I’m sitting in the office extra early today for no reason other than Apple dicking with the clock on my phone. Daylight Savings Time is to blame. Even the idea of time is an interesting one that would require me to open Pandora’s Box to go into. Let’s assume that time proceeds forward, at a rather regular speed (damn it!), and that the way we subjectively experience time as humans is the same for us all. Let’s limit scope. If you’re after a different way of seeing it, watch Arrival. Or read Einstein’s work on relativity‍.

New Zealanders, both in legend and in legislation, have made attempts to manipulate how we relate to time. In Māori legend, Māui captures Tamanuiterā (the personification of the sun) and beat him into submission so as to give his people more time to hunt for and collect food.

More recently New Zealanders have made more than one attempt to go as far as to legislate time. We started in 1868 when we adopted a standard time of 11 hours and 30 minutes ahead of London. Shortly afterwards, a guy with an interesting hobby suggested we should bring some of the morning light closer to bedtime by dicking with everyone’s clock with the selfish ambition to spend more evening time collecting insects. It took until 1927 until New Zealand embraced the concept, tepidly at first.

The original Summer Time Act only allowed for one year of Summer Time.

At this point in history, society was highly organised around synchronous activities. British railroad companies had been using a standardised time (GMT) since around the time of the Treaty of Waitangi signing so that people knew when to catch the train (or when it was supposed to be there for the catching), and to stop them bumping into one another. Industry needed people to show up at the same time as there used to be lots of machinery that required humans to drive it. The whole plant would be useless until they all arrived.

‍So back in the industrial world it made sense for all of human society to get up at the same time, eat breakfast, boil the jug and make a cuppa, and drag themselves to work. For 80 years now, New Zealanders have been used to a standardised 40 hour working week where we are all largely required to show up sometime between 8:00 and 9:00 am. It made it easier for those machines to keep working.

Most of us just drive one of these things.

‍Something changed in the middle though. Most of us don’t operate machines that need anyone else’s help anymore. Most of us just drive one of these things.

‍So why do we need these synchronised lives? And to that point, why do many businesses still insist that people show up and leave at certain times? Most jobs in professional industries probably don’t require this high a degree of synchronisation. The value from a team of people comes from elements of team work, collaboration, shared values and purpose, an understanding of how each person contributes to the greater impetus of the imaginary creations we call our companies.

‍Time spent working together is valuable. Time spent working on our own is valuable — and most of us will call this our actual work.

‍So why do we need a legislative instrument to muck with our clocks every six months? It’s an antiquated idea from the past. In the past, in order to enjoy a bit more light at the end of the day we all had to show up to work at a given time, spend roughly nine hours in a room with our colleagues, then go home to enjoy that extra sunlight.

Do we all still need to obey to these things?

But now? More than 50% of people work in jobs that permit flexible working hours. As our economy has developed over the last 40 years we have gone from a nation of farmers and labourers to a nation of much more independent and empowered contributors. There is only one small cultural barrier stopping people enjoying more hours at the end of the working day, irrespective of what the clock might say. Letting people arrange their lives to suit them after making sure that some key working parameters are met. I think this is called trust.

‍I say scrap DST. Mature into the type of economy that we want to be, with sensible rules around when and how we do our work, get up, go to bed, eat, and well, you know, other stuff. Why on earth do we need the government to write laws that determine when we have to wake up in the morning?

‍There are many benefits to this so I’ll get back on the soap box later. In the mean time enjoy these more comical looks at DST.

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