Catherine Toth Fox: The Pandemic Has Changed The Way We Want To Work - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Catherine Toth Fox

Born and raised on Oahu, Catherine Toth Fox is an editor, writer, children’s book author, blogger and former journalism instructor. She is currently the editor of HONOLULU Family and lives in Honolulu with her husband, son and two dogs. You can follow her on Instagram @catherinetothfox. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Opinion article badgeRight now, in the U.K., thousands of people are working 32 hours a week for the next six months as part of a four-day workweek pilot project.

And burned-out workers everywhere are excited about the prospect of maybe — just maybe — figuring out how we can all achieve the ever-elusive work-life balance.

However, in order to receive full pay while working 80% of their usual schedules, these workers — 3,300 people across 70 companies in varying industries — will have to maintain 100% productivity.

What that likely means is they’ll be doing what we’re already doing: packing in more work in fewer hours. Will that one extra day off a week be enough compensation?

I’m a big fan of the theory behind the four-day workweek. I remember working at the local newspaper more than a decade ago where some staffers — namely, page designers — worked four 10-hour days per week.

It seemed perfect since many of us were already working 10-hour days — just five days a week. This way, I would have a structure that controlled how much I would be working; if I wasn’t physically in the office, I wouldn’t be working.

That was more than 15 years ago — before social media, before people demanded the most up-to-date information at their convenience. It’s not unusual now for journalists — even those who work at magazines like me — to write and post stories online well after our shifts end.

Kalakaua Avenue with no traffic as surfers cross during COVID-19 pandemic. June 1, 2020
Surfers enjoy traffic-free streets as they take to the waves in Waikiki early in the coronavirus pandemic, in June 2020, when many businesses were closed and people stayed home. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

People want to know why they were stuck in Pali Highway traffic this afternoon, what the latest Covid numbers are, and who is Rebel Wilson dating (top Google search) or, rather, who is Rebel Wilson?

And remote work hasn’t helped, either.

In a real office, when my day was over, I would leave. Turn off my computer and walk out the door. I wouldn’t be visibly at my desk, where an editor could point to me and say, “You there. I need you to write this story.”

Now, an editor can just message me on Teams or ping me on Slack — regardless of where I may be at the moment — and assign me work. I have been in the middle of cleaning up my son’s vomit — true story — during a conference call.

There are no boundaries anymore.

And, if our mental health is any indication, we need to start setting some.

The pandemic is changing the way many of us are viewing work — and how much we are willing to sacrifice to achieve what we used to call our professional goals. Because even those goals are changing.

No longer do we all want to work to the brink of breakdown just to impress our bosses or get that promotion. For a lot of us, the pandemic had the opposite effect: We endured pay cuts and some of us lost our jobs outright. We had to rethink our careers, and achieving financial success or job status at all costs just stopped sounding appealing.

I had never seen so many people surfing in Waikiki or on hiking trails than I did during the early days of the pandemic, which began in March 2020. These folks were out of jobs or had scaled-back hours, collecting Covid-related unemployment and enjoying these simple moments of life.

It’s Hard To Go Back

I have friends who didn’t work for two years, surfed all day, spent time they never could before with their kids, started side hustles and passion projects. They wrote books, they learned how to cook, they renovated their bathrooms. Sure, they may have earned less income, but they felt great. And there’s a lot of power in that.

Once you’ve figured out how to live with less money, as long as it affords you something better, like more freedom, you start to think about work in a different way.

As Amil Niazi wrote in The Cut: “People want to work — we have to — but many of us are no longer willing to trade our well-being for a chance to claw at the decaying American Dream. There’s a renewed focus on relationships, community, and the slow beat of life outside the gaslight-gatekeep-girlboss ethos.”

No longer do we want to kill ourselves only to reach a disappointing level of meh. We want something more.

During the pandemic many of us survived on less — less money, less time, less balance — and we’re now on the other side. We made it — but we’re changed. I no longer feel the same ambition to get ahead at all costs.

There’s no “ahead” to me anymore. There’s only “where I need to be.” And sometimes that means at home, helping my kid with an art project at 3:30 p.m.

I’m curious to see the results of this 4 Day Workweek Campaign. Maybe it will prove that people will happily cram more work into fewer hours just to get that one extra day off. Or maybe it will reveal that that’s really not enough.

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About the Author

Catherine Toth Fox

Born and raised on Oahu, Catherine Toth Fox is an editor, writer, children’s book author, blogger and former journalism instructor. She is currently the editor of HONOLULU Family and lives in Honolulu with her husband, son and two dogs. You can follow her on Instagram @catherinetothfox. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Latest Comments (0)

Reminds me of Furlough Fridays, which had both pros and cons.

Sun_Duck · 1 week ago

Most feel, why work if the government will provide for you. Even one of the gubenatorial candidates endorsed the great resignation in Hawaii. This appears to be the new normal. Only a few will work to support everyone.

outlawmotorcyclegang · 2 weeks ago

pcbroda's comment below hits the nail right on the head. Living, working, enjoying and just plain being here in Hawai'i is precious.Why then are there so many "forces" that contribute to our subjugation? Financially, medically, psychologically, spititually, politically....?It must be what we all want, right? I look in the mirror first to find fault w/ my personal lot in life. Maybe those "forces" need to do the same. Or maybe they have and have adopted the "Do unto others before they do unto you." mantra.Sure seems like it when taxes, gas, food, shelter, clothing, flying, freedoms are all curtailed because, "its for the children." And yet for the last 2 yrs only the "essential" were allowed to "progress".Thanks?

Ranger_MC · 2 weeks ago

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