Charles Handy calls for “Oxford hours” – work in the morning, exercise after lunch
More and more people are getting used to working at home in this, what I call “sabbatical” time. So much so that they may well not want to go back to the old kinds of business hours.
In fact, I have long worked what I used to call “Oxford hours”, but which are more truthfully “army hours”.
It came about when I was still working a sort of office job at the London Business School. My wife asked me to come home for lunch one day with her father, a retired colonel from the army who was, to me, a slightly intimidating figure. So I said, “of course,” being an obedient husband in those days.
I came home at about half past twelve and at two o’clock I began to excuse myself, I stood up and said “I am terribly sorry, but I have got to go back to the office”. The colonel looked at me from under his eyebrows.
“Good God man,” he said. “You don’t mean to tell me you work in the afternoon?”
He went on to explain that in the army, they got up early, they did their army drills or whatever they were going to do in the morning, they had a couple of pink gins at lunch time and in the afternoon, they rode ponies or did physical exercise of one sort or another and played sport. In the evening they socialised in the mess. He said that it made for a very balanced life. So I adopted it; I worked in the morning, I had a mild drink at lunch and I took exercise in the afternoon (though nowadays it is mostly just a walk around the garden). And I socialise in the evening, though not as heartily as I used to do.
I found it worked very well. I called it “Oxford hours” because it sounded more respectable, but basically that is what one tended to do in the university – work in the morning, physical exercise in the afternoon, socialise in the evening, sleep eventually, back to work in the morning.
It makes very good sense for a balanced life and I commend it to you, even without my ex-father in-law to make sure I kept enough time to look after his daughter.
Charles Handy’s books on management have sold over a million copies and have changed the way we view business and society. His latest book, 21 Letters, is now available in paperback and on audiobook. Read more here. Charles suffered a stroke in 2019 following the death of his wife in a car crash in 2018. This piece was dictated to his carer.