Salvador Cardús is a professor of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, is a researcher at ISOR and since 2015 he is a member of the Advisory Council for the Timetable Reform of the Generalitat of Catalonia. He works for the implementation of virtuous schedules.
Are we rude about the uses of time?
Yes, rude would be a good expression. We have disorganized schedules that cause us conflict and discomfort. We spend the day running, we come home in a bad mood after the workday, we don’t have time to do what we like, etc. These are experiences that translate into self-certification, or we hold other agents responsible, such as the school or the company. But rather we tend to think that we don’t get it because of us. Although the reality is that, objectively, we live disorganized by a poorly assembled time system.
The truth is that each stage of life requires different time balances. Not everyone enters the company from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. This is a distant panorama of factory schedules. It is no longer the most frequent. The society is more complex and calls for more adaptive capacity and flexible hours.
What would it be like to have virtuous schedules?
Virtue means strength. Now we would call them empowering schedules. They should be flexible. Not everyone has to enter and fold at the same time of work. Depending on the activity and personal circumstance, individual, collective and corporate interests should be accumulated.
However, there are some basic criteria, those that are linked to health, which should be established. There are much healthier schedules at all levels according to scholars: we know we have to get up in daylight; we should have breakfast when we start to need sugar, both to study, to do sports and to go to work; we should eat between 12 noon and 2 pm; it would be reasonable to also advance dinner time between 7 pm and 8 pm to go to bed early, before 11 pm; and rest about 8 h adults and more, children. Ah! And we should eliminate the summer and winter time change.
Can we introduce a new conception of the uses of time in schools?
Clear! It is a crime, seen from health, that teenagers finish at half past three in the afternoon and eat at almost four. It goes against all public health criteria that are not understood in the rest of Europe. They practically run out of late. Some are forced to play sports between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. So what time do they have dinner and go to sleep? It is completely unacceptable.
In general, all ages, not only in high school, would have to implement full or compact schedules. It makes no sense for children to pause for 2 or 3 hours to eat, play and return to the activity. They could eat in 45 minutes, continue with school activity, finish earlier and have more time for extracurricular activities. And therefore, at 6 pm everyone could be home. Ideally, children should have lunch paid at school, because it is also part of the educational activity, shared by teachers and students.
“Everyone sees the benefits but, to go well, the hourly reform should be implemented simultaneously in all spheres.”
How would the implementation of virtuous schedules be articulated between families, schools, administration and companies?
Since the Timetable Reform Initiative, on a voluntary basis, the driving group was working from 2015 until now to pressure the public administration to implement the Timetable Reform. Reports, studies, a time commissioner have been generated and the Plan for Timetable Reform approved in 2017.
We have made more than 400 meetings with different sectors: leisure, education, unions, employers, … To advance in this regard. Everyone sees the benefits but, to go well, the hourly reform should be implemented simultaneously in all areas. Even television programming should not put obstacles. It would reduce expenses and make possible the reconciliation of personal, family and work times. The Spanish State is an exception in Europe, we are late. In California, a mecca of the free market, they also work with schedules organized before and the system gives more performance to the individual, society and companies. You take more time and have more personal life. There is a phrase I really like about researchers who have compared the uses of time: “the availability of time is the new measure of freedom.” Well, that, we must have as much time as possible to make our decisions.
Text: Marta Rius (Colectic for Time Programs, of the Department of Gender Transversality, attached to the Municipal Management of the City Council of Barcelona)
Photograph: courtesy of Salvador Cardús