How then do we capitalise on this opportunity of society’s obvious ability to rapidly shift away from its traditional operating norms, such as the 9-5-day, 5 day week, fixed bank holidays, 3 school terms a year, regulation of opening hours for retail and hospitality – and why would we want to?
There are several reasons why – levelling out the peaks and troughs of demand will:
• Reduce the massive strain on our infrastructure and work force.
• Reduce the amount of investment needed in our infrastructure.
• Increase the capacity of our infrastructure and work force.
• Make it easier to manage our lives and achieve a happy work life balance.
• Improve our efficiency and effectiveness.
As an example, it is worth looking at the impact that rigid operating hours, times, and holidays of the Education and the Office workplace sectors alone have on our infrastructure, economy, and lives. The education sector’s three-term year and the peaks and troughs that it creates along with the 9am to 3pm class times and long summer breaks impacts us, our lives and economy in the following ways:
• School run time rush hours, increased pollution around schools, and congested roads.
• The capacity of schools, class sizes and availability of positions for teachers during term time.
• Lack of and high cost of childcare for working parents during holidays. • Crowded airports and stretched airline fleets during peak holiday times.
• Overpriced holidays during peak times, pushing parents to remove children from school in term time.
• Businesses forced to follow the peaks and troughs imposed on them by the education timetable.
• Negative impact on children’s learning. Some studies have shown that the long summer break is too long an interruption and different age groups are suited to different school start times.
• Long waiting lists for schools, whilst their facilities, and staff, lie unused for 13 weeks a year.
• The need for airlines, airports hotels and holiday accommodation to have capacity in their fleets, airports, and hotel rooms to meet peak holiday requirements.
If the education sector were able to shift away from its current timetable to a more fluid model, and the office and workplace was able to mirror and support this change with its evident ability and willingness of employees to adapt to a more flexible way of working and commuting, then these two sectors alone would have a significant and positive impact on our lives our economy, infrastructures, and transport systems.
The Education sector has embraced home schooling during the pandemic and it should do so more even after COVID with a central DOE website and improved infrastructure. A local Government Association review was set up in 2002 to look at the benefits of a 5-term year. It looked at the impact and benefits that it would have on children but opposition from teaching unions felt that it would rob its members of their holidays (which it would not- it would just spread them out and remove the long summer break). The review though failed to consider the huge trickle-down effect that a move to 5 terms a year could have on the overall economy and way of life.
So how could the education sector/schools change their model in order to “spread the load”.
• Schools should consider moving away from a 3 term year to a 4, 5 or 6 term year, maintaining existing holiday days and children’s vacation time, retaining existing staffing levels and simply spreading the curriculum across the year, with more, but shorter holiday periods spread across the year.
• A hybrid of the above options incorporating a radically improved home learning offer so as to further increase the flexibility of the schools, parents, and children.
The office The Office/workplace sector has indicated that it can shift away from the historic norms of 9-5 working. After moving slowly over the last 40 years towards “flexible working” , last year the entire sector embraced home working overnight. Working hand in hand with the education sector to ensure that each support each other will enable huge opportunities.
This should be incentivised further by the government and the following should be considered:
• Availability of flexible season tickets for public transport to support new commuting patterns.
• An increase in annual holiday allowances linked to a reduction in fixed bank holidays bank holidays which cause their own peaks.
• Tax incentives to encourage the mass take up of local small work drop in spaces (for those who cannot work from home)
• Tax incentives for business that adopt flexible work practices. • Investment in the broadband backbone on the UK
If the Education and Office workplace sector could adopt changes as suggested, then we will see the following benefits:
• Reduction in overall levels of commuting, and peak time commuting, putting less stress on our transport infrastructure and on ourselves.
• Growth in local neighbourhood economies through supporting home workers.
• Holiday and hospitality industry would see growth through all year demand and lowered prices.
• Aviation industry would experience less congestion and more efficient airports, increased all year passenger numbers, reduction in fleet sizes and cost savings.
• Increased capacity of our schools.
The end goal could be that of a 24-hour society, where we choose when we go to work and where we work, when we can shop, how where and when we educate our children and when we go on holiday.
A levelling out of our working and non-working times will allow us to operate with fewer resources and with smaller more efficiently used schools, offices, transport systems, retail and hospitality sectors.