Married to the job: how a long-hours working culture keeps people single and lonely
Demanding bosses, impossible workloads, 24/7 email – no wonder many employees feel they have no time outside work to find love
and that those living alone are less financially secure.For Hancock, turning her yoga practice into her career meant giving up much of her social life. She was “knackered” at the end of a long day of practice and teaching – and the expectation that she would continue her education through pricey retreats meant, at times, that she was spending more than she was making. It was at the end of a four-hour workshop in a local church in 2018 that the penny dropped. A student came up to her and said: “You are not well. We need to go to the doctor.”
Composite: Getty/Guardian Design/GettyHer GP found infections in her ear and her chest. She spent seven weeks recovering in bed, which gave her a lot of time, alone at home, to reconsider her career and face the reality of exactly how vulnerable she was.
Lauren Smith*, 34, a teacher in the west of England, was given a warning by a colleague before she applied for her postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE). “It’s going to be the most intense year of your life,” they said. At the time, she thought she was ready for it, but it took its toll on her relationship. “I remember coming home and just … not even being able to talk to him.” headtopics.com
Things did not improve when she started working as a teacher. “There’s this culture in education where it’s almost competitive about how much you work,” she says. The social relationships at school become almost a substitute for a personal life; she briefly dated another teacher. However, apart from “the odd fling here or there”, she says, “in terms of actually dating, I find that my enthusiasm or my energy for it …” She trails off.
The strain on their personal lives has made Smith and Hancock look much more closely at the sustainability of their working lives. Hancock is one of the founding members of the newyoga teachers’ union, a branch of the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), the union representing gig economy workers and those in traditionally non-unionised workplaces. Smith is active in the National Education Union, but is considering a career change. “The demands on teachers have just increased so much and, with the funding cuts, I’m now doing the job of three people,” she says.
“Everything else you love about your job has been pushed to the wayside and it’s all about those exam results,” says Smith. The number one thing she would like “would be more planning time in my job. Maybe I could have one less class, which is 30 kids’ worth of data that I don’t have to do and it means I can put my mental energy into the students themselves and have the time and the headspace to do other things.”
The well-off are more likely to marry and have more stable familiesIt is not that she is hanging everything on the hope of a romantic relationship – and she does not want children – but nevertheless Smith longs for time and energy to devote to the people she cares about, rather than her job. “In the nine years that I have been a teacher, it has got harder and harder. If things don’t change, I can’t see myself staying in this job beyond two years from now.” headtopics.com
London elections: Sadiq Khan wins second term as mayor
The former MP will serve for another three years after beating Conservative rival Shaun Bailey.
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