Smoothing the Week

Now that we’ve passed the event horizon here in Prince Edward Island, from the unfettered Lord’s Day capitalism of May to December and into the dark wastelands of January to May mandatory Sunday shuttering, Sunday shopping discussion is back in the air – blog, blog, letter, letter – and almost all of it falls into the traditional two camps of libertarian “government has no place regulating business” and the spiritual “God set aside a day of worship.”

Neither argument is particularly compelling – mandatory religion is about as distasteful as mandatory capitalism – and I propose that if we’re going to tinker with the week we go all-in and take a serious look at how we collectively arrange our time.

Here’s my idea, admittedly custom-tailored to my personal work preferences: smooth out the week.

Take the standard work week down to 35 hours, and have everyone work 5 hours every day, 7 days a week. We’d have to hash out the slice of the day we’d devote to work – I’d suggest 7:00 a.m. to Noon, but I’m okay getting up early. Retail store hours could follow on by an hour or two – say from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – to give working people a chance to get some shopping done. Restaurants, hospitals, snowplows, etc. would continue on their “open all the time” tack.

There are several upsides to this changed system:

  1. No bias to Christian religions: every religion that has a sacred day has a good chunk of it to worship.
  2. More work and school productivity. Nobody gets any work done on Friday afternoons right now, and a good part of Monday at schools is spent getting students back into a learning frame of mind. With no large two-day gap to overcome, we all become more productive at home and at school.
  3. Lots of family time. I don’t know about you, but with supper at 6 and room for a bedtime story and teeth brushing, regular weekdays leave about 30 minutes for quality family time. If we all got home for lunch and had the rest of the day free, there would be untold opportunities for family fun.
  4. Time for daily personal activities (in daylight!). I think most people are ”working for the weekend” right now, and have very little time available for recreation, fitness, reading, whatever. Open up the afternoons and when not playing Snakes and Ladders with the kids we could be learning how to snowboard or reading War and Peace.
  5. Week-long shopping. The capitalists get their opportunity to sell things all week long.

It’s possible that there are very good reasons that this idea won’t fly. But at least considering it takes us out of the tyranny of the religion vs. capitalism debate and onto some creative exploration much more substantial rearrangements of our collective timetable.

Comments welcome.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on January 5, 2010 - 21:29 Permalink

Interesting suggestions. There is certainly something lost in not having any entire days free (let alone two in a row) of scheduled work (for those of us lucky enough not to be working shifts, that is).

I suspect you’d need something has powerful as religion (capitalism?) to bring about such a change.

Why don’t you try this yourself? You probably have the flexibility to experiment more than most. While you can’t really get the retail world to join in on your experiment, you might still be able to garner many of the benefits you listed.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on January 6, 2010 - 00:11 Permalink


Melissa's picture
Melissa on January 6, 2010 - 03:18 Permalink

I was unemployed for a while this year, and inbetween contracts my part time retail job became my full time retail job. I work in Nova Scotia, which has year round Sunday shopping. And you know how much I worked? Almost every day. I worked 8, 9 days in a row, I had 3 days off in 3 weeks. The odd day I had off was basically used for sitting in a stupor of exhaustion. And all this for the grand total of minimum wage! If you’ve never worked retail, I assure you that even long standing employees, unless they work for a large chain and are either the manager or assistant manager, are making VERY little over minimum wages and have no benefits beyond that of an employee discount. Also, retail is HARD work; you never get to sit down, you have to deal with the public on a constant basis (and that’s not as easy as it sounds, at least not always), and you never have enough people to do the required work, because the company is always looking for the least invest in manpower.

So basically, I say hell no to Sunday shopping. Believe me, if there is no legislated day of rest, many (if not most) corporations will use it to wring that last bit of blood out of their employees. It’s not always a libertarian VS religion argument; in fact, I’d say the people most affected by the change take neither position.

johnny's picture
johnny on January 6, 2010 - 14:09 Permalink

I tried something like this when I first moved to Vancouver. I was working in a restaurant as a waiter and had to to take whatever shifts were available to make ends meet. I worked about 30 days in a row, averaging 4-5 hours each day. At the end of the month I wished I was dead. I love weekends.

Recent grad's picture
Recent grad on January 6, 2010 - 14:42 Permalink

Interesting argument, and you make a ton of valid points. More family time would be nice, it would be rewarding to actually get to engage in personal hobbies through the week(although Tolstoy would likely remain on the shelf), and students might be more productive in the classroom. However, I think it’s obvious that this opinion reflects an upper middle class lifestyle, and most likely comes from someone who hasn’t had to work retail or wait on tables in a long long time(no offence intended and feel free to detect a note of jealousy).

If resteraunts and other service industries continue to open at all hours, while those in governement related jobs and other similar positions only work until the early afternoon, the social gap between people who work in these already seperate spheres will only widen. Service industry jobs will also be more chaotic, stressful, and painful because of the increase in amount of leisure time the rest of the population will get to enjoy. Being a waiter/waitress, barrista, and bartender is a lifestyle that requires entire days off, so that individuals can recover from the difficult work.

Basically, this ideal week is only ideal for older individuals with families and money.

LC's picture
LC on January 6, 2010 - 17:32 Permalink

I agree with Melissa above -workers are compelled to work on these days to the point of exhaustion at very low wages -big box stores will use this time to squeeze out small mom and pop stores -there are places to buy what you need on these days from gas, basic groceries and medicine but for “wants” I think you can wait a day -the law passed allowing Sunday shopping from May-December was a compromise with those who did not want Sunday shopping and the reasons are far more complex than those arguing “The Lord’s Day” argument including its impact on employees forced to work on those days (those who worked before the law was changed were told they were grandfathered and did not have to work Sunday’s — do you think they had a reasonable right to refuse without an impact on their hours worked?)