#CODES & NARRATIVES

Hans Rusinek
Researcher Future of work
30.08.2022 | reading time: 4 minutes

CHANGING CULTURES MAGAZINE > CODES & NARRATIVES > Time and our attitudes toward it

Time and our attitudes toward it:
Harmful stress in our busy everyday lives

Like we have all heard, ‘time is money’. But Hans Rusinek, a doctoral researcher in the field of labor and work, points out that time is in fact by far the more valuable of the two. What should our attitudes be regarding time?

 

We all live in the now – a common space in which we are connected with others. While working at home we learned how much more crucial this space is than the physical space we share, like when we are working together in an office. We are yet to learn however what our approach to time should be in the working world.

Time is a fascinating subject. Here’s a fun fact from neuroscience: our perception of the world is divided up into in time windows of 15 seconds. That’s the approximate period of time that we roughly feel to be ‘the moment’. The rest is either already past or remains to be manifest in the future. This is so because of our nucleus suprachiasmaticus, a region of the brain located between the eyes a few centimeters behind the forehead (where we also perceive light). The clock is not based on the rhythms of nature, but – importantly – our perception of time is.

 

NEEDING TIME FOR EMPATHY, AND FOR SUCCESS

The facts we are confronted with in the working world are not the ‘fun fact’ kind. In that world, we don’t get the time we need for our responsibilities, as found for example in a study of overburdened supervisory board members, i.e. those active on three or more boards. The study revealed that such busy supervisory board members are much less scrupulous in their monitoring for compliance, regarding environmental regulation, for example.

There’s not enough time to feel empathy either, as indicated by another study conducted of judges who decide on parole petitions by incarcerated individuals. It was found that the number of approved petitions progressively falls when the deciding judge has not taken a break, from roughly 65% approved immediately after a break to nearly zero. The relative number of petitions approved was seen to rise again after the judge returned from a break. It is thus bad news for a defendant if the judge is stressed out. So if you ever have to go to court, try to get a slot right after lunch break!

Frequently, we don’t even take the time we need to achieve success. Charlie Munger, talking about his absurdly successful investing partner Warren Buffett, has noted: “He allocates a lot of time for thinking things through. You look at his calendar and you might see ‘Tuesday: haircut day.” That means Tuesday is blocked out for not being in a rush. Which will not remind most of us of our own day-to-day work schedule.

MECHANICAL VERSUS BIOLOGICAL TIME

Through science we know a lot about human cognition, and that hustling all the time in our work and personal lives is not only counterproductive but also quite dangerous. To properly take responsibility, we need to take time. Managing crises requires time; humanity demands time. How can we find the time necessary for intelligent decisions, decisions made out of a recuperated vitality? Where is the time we need to renew our resources?

According to time researcher Jonas Geissler, environmental crises are ultimately crises of time. In his view, the working world is dominated by machine-time: we dance to the beat of the ticking second hand. We degrade the planet, presuming growth can be boundless and infinite as we march in hurried lockstep toward our own destruction … tick tock.

Biological time is time marked by nature’s rhythms: the tides, the succession of day and night, the turn of the seasons; ecosystems cycling from growth to decay in a pulsing back-and-forth.

 

TIME CRUNCH: HARMFUL TO
OURSELVES AND THE WORLD

Here’s a news flash: human beings are not machines, but rather biological creatures – even when we are at work. We need slow rhythms for regeneration, creativity ... and in order to act responsibly. Yet today’s world of work has a hectic pace, and the time pressure and constant urgency we all feel is fundamentally destructive, to people and the world we inhabit. Thus to have an economy characterized by responsibility towards the environment, which we are an inherent part of, we must first find a better approach to that which connects us all together. It's time.

 

This article first appeared in the Deutschlandfunk Kultur magazine on July 11, 2022.

Images: "Header" // "Hand" // "Time" // "Stars"

 

 


Author: Hans Rusinek

Hans Rusinek is a researcher, consultant and writer in the areas of economic transformation and the future of work. He is currently a doctoral student at the University of St. Gallen, working on a dissertation on ‘Work and Meaning’ at the Institute for Business Ethics. As a consultant, he helps organizations identify and live up to their greater purpose. Rusinek is an editor-in-chief at Transform, a print magazine that addresses issues around happiness in life, sustainability and societal change, and a winner of the Ludwig Erhard Foundation prize for Economic Journalism.

CHANGING CULTURES MAGAZINE

Similar articles

TO OVERVIEW