Our last chance to be lazy

A man reads outside in New York in June 2022. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)
In the early afternoon of a late summer day, with the temperature at a humid 30°C, the sound of cicadas filled the air. I decided to take a break from my work in the home office, closed my laptop, and headed to the bedroom. There, I picked up a book called "The Church of Baseball" by screenwriter and director Ron Shelton, a behind-the-scenes look at his 1988 movie "Bull Durham."اضافة اعلان

As I flipped through the pages, my eyelids grew heavy. Instead of resisting, I surrendered to a nap.

These final weeks of summer, when out-of-office messages accumulate and even Wall Street eases up a bit, offer a precious opportunity for leisure, relaxation, and snoozing. This is especially true as return-to-office policies come into effect for many companies nationwide.

Millions of Americans are being called back to their desks, and some firms that had allowed remote work during the pandemic, including Amazon, BlackRock, and Meta, are now tightening the reins.

Shortly before Labor Day, Amazon's CEO, Andy Jassy, set the tone for the season by insisting that employees who had not yet returned to the office should come in at least three days a week, warning that "it's probably not going to work out for you at Amazon" otherwise.

With the more flexible, less structured workdays of the pandemic era possibly coming to an end, many are reluctantly bidding farewell to the simple pleasures of lounging on a porch, sipping morning coffee slowly, and savouring the art of loafing.

"It's good for you," said Tom Hodgkinson, editor, and publisher of British magazine The Idler. "It's during moments of idleness that ideas often emerge."

Hodgkinson, at 55, is an advocate of embracing leisure. He shared the example of Aldous Huxley, the British author and philosopher who spent considerable time travelling around France and Italy in a Bugatti with his wife, once remarking, "Like every man of sense and good feeling, I abominate work."

Hodgkinson, author of "How to Be Idle," enjoys a life that resembles his philosophy. He bikes to his office in London, often arriving late. Twice a week, he calls it a day after lunch to play tennis. Remarkably, he doesn't own a smartphone.

"There are moments throughout the day that you can reclaim," Hodgkinson said. "But often, we fill them with mindless phone checking."

He made a clear distinction between idleness and laziness. "It's about reconnecting with your inner philosopher and carving out time to think and simply take a break," he explained. "It's truly about pursuing freedom."

Many notable thinkers have championed the advantages of stepping away from the daily grind. Bertrand Russell, a British mathematician and philosopher, advocated for a four-hour workday in a 1932 essay titled "In Praise of Idleness." He argued, "I think that there is far too much work done in the world, and that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous."

More recently, authors like Tom Lutz and Kate Northrup have written about the virtues of doing less and the pitfalls of perpetual busyness. Both authors, fittingly, declined interview requests for this article.

The concept of embracing laziness has found renewed popularity on social media. In March, Gabrielle Judge, a 26-year-old social media influencer from Fort Collins, Colorado, coined the hashtag #lazygirljob. The phrase, along with the underlying idea, quickly went viral.

Judge recalled starting her career at a software company right after college, where she earned well and gained valuable experience. However, she gradually grew disenchanted with the workload. "I quickly realized that doing great work often meant doing more work," she said. "That's when my 'lazy girl' ethos began to develop. How could I find a job that paid the same but didn't demand as much mental effort?"

But here's where Judge's approach to laziness gets interesting. During her non-working hours, she launched a content-creation business centred around the #lazygirljob concept. Now an entrepreneur and influencer, she admitted, "I don't necessarily have the best work-life balance."

Indeed, the original "lazy girl" has been busy preparing for a TEDx talk and working on a book. Nonetheless, she clarified that the ethos isn't about doing nothing; it's about having agency over how you spend your time, something many people are increasingly seeking. "That's why there's such resistance to returning to the office," she observed.

As I awoke from my nap, I returned to Shelton's book about the making of his baseball movie. I discovered that he typically worked from 9 a.m. to noon before taking a break to shoot hoops. To me, that sounds like the ideal #lazygirljob.

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