Midweek Golf Excursions and Debating the WFH Revolution: Unveiling the Latest Rules

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I wouldn’t consider myself a workaholic, as I find the term unappealing and simplistic. However, as I approach my sixties, I am finally coming to terms with some of my own detrimental work habits. Unlike my father, who strictly confined his work to office hours, I tend to work at any given time and place, with the exception of the bedroom. I have never allowed work to invade my bedroom. But apart from that, work tends to permeate every aspect of my life.

I understand that this is nothing to boast about. It is also not an uncommon situation. Modern technology has enabled and facilitated poor work habits. My father, who dealt with mainframe computers, would have struggled to accomplish substantial work from the dining table. However, for many knowledge workers today, this option is always available. The boundaries between work and leisure have become so blurred that not only is work less productive, but leisure is also less enjoyable.

Of course, the ability to work from anywhere is convenient. Whether it’s responding to work emails while waiting in line at the supermarket, completing tasks while on the train, or participating in meetings and writing reports during a pandemic lockdown, it offers flexibility. Yet, convenience often leads to temptation. Before long, we find ourselves working during downtime and neglecting relaxation, loved ones, and fun activities.

Employees both benefit and suffer in this scenario. Your employer may expect you to answer emails while cooking for your family or require you to conduct late-night research for your boss instead of spending time with your partner. However, this dynamic works both ways. In retaliation, you can slack off at your desk by playing video games, mindlessly scrolling through TikTok, or online shopping.

Alternatively, you can go out and play golf. Several of my colleagues have discovered a delightful yet maddening academic finding: Stanford University researchers have determined that “working from home has fueled a significant increase in golfing.” This trend is most noticeable in the middle of the week and afternoon. For example, golfing on Wednesdays rose nearly 150% between 2022 and 2019, while golfing at 4pm on Wednesday afternoons increased by over 275%.

This surge in golfing is not solely due to the sport’s growing popularity, but rather a shift in golfing habits. Surprisingly, golfing on Saturdays was slightly less popular in 2022 compared to 2019. Researchers Alex Finan and Nick Bloom suggest that “employees are golfing as breaks while working from home.” Quite fitting, indeed.

This discovery brings mixed feelings. Golf is often associated with privilege, and since the ability to work from home is also a privilege, this story represents a double-layered privilege narrative. On the other hand, it is satisfying to see workers finding ways to escape their responsibilities. Many of us struggle to find enough leisure time in our lives. Engaging in play, relaxation, and enjoyment no longer come naturally. It is refreshing to witness golfers asserting their right to have fun.

During the first lockdown, I realized the extent of my own poor work habits and how frequently I would forego other activities in favor of work. Prior to the pandemic, I relied on firm plans, such as going out for dinner or attending a concert, to prevent myself from succumbing to work. However, during lockdown, I often finished dinner and immediately returned to work. Admittedly, I was attempting to convince myself that my number-crunching was of utmost importance during challenging times. But more often than not, work crept in when I failed to prioritize other fulfilling alternatives.

As the world gradually reopens, I am determined to remember this lesson. I have been striving to fill my leisure time with engaging activities that eliminate any temptation to work. Checking your phone while walking or having dinner with friends is not only difficult but also rude. Engaging in intense sports or visiting places where distractions are frowned upon, such as swimming pools and symphony halls, provide ideal opportunities. As Benjamin Hoff astutely wrote in “The Tao of Pooh” (1982): “It’s really great fun to go someplace where there are no timesaving devices because when you do, you find that you have lots of time.”

One significant change since the pandemic is the question of what constitutes office hours. Previously, if someone had a job, they would swim in the morning, evening, or on weekends. Now, someone might feel like taking a dip on a Thursday afternoon. Who gets to determine if it’s acceptable or not? Who would even know? In a world where many people catch up on emails at 6am or midnight, or both, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for a worker to practice yoga or play golf during the middle of a workday. (This is not legal advice!)

What disappoints me about some golfers is that they fail to seize the true essence of the game, which is to temporarily escape workplace responsibilities. Historically, golf courses have served as venues for business discussions, and it appears that this tradition remains unchanged. Finan and Bloom quote a tech executive who witnessed a colleague taking a Zoom call from the golf course. Although the colleague’s microphone and video were off, the executive overheard a conversation about the fairway and strokes.

Attending a Zoom meeting from the golf course jeopardizes both the meeting and the game of golf. It is a testament to the existence of divine justice, but certainly not a model others should follow. At a time when countless knowledge workers struggle to differentiate between work and play, deliberate boundaries need to be established.

Tim Harford’s newly released children’s book, “The Truth Detective” (Wren & Rook), is now available.

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Denial of responsibility! Vigour Times is an automatic aggregator of Global media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, and all materials to their authors. For any complaint, please reach us at – [email protected]. We will take necessary action within 24 hours.
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