I live in New Hampshire but have an office in Boston and go there regularly. On one recent visit, I noticed people exercising on fitness machines just outside my building. I wasn’t dressed for a workout, but it got me to thinking about the workplace and employee well-being.
I’ve never written a column about sex and don’t intend to start now. I was intrigued, however, by a recent report in the New York Times that a town official in Overtornea, Sweden, has proposed that the town give its employees an hour off each week to go home and have sex. “It’s a great form of exercise,” he said, “and it will encourage procreation.” Despite having one of the strongest economies in Europe, apparently Sweden needs more Swedes.
Some people praised the proposal while others ridiculed it. My favorite response was that of a proponent whose only concern was that the proposal was too stingy. “One hour,” he said, “is not enough time.”
As we all know, Swedes, and Scandinavians in general, take a more relaxed view of sex than we do. We can, however, take a lesson from the idea of devoting an “hour a week” during the work day to something other than work. Here are some possibilities.
Give workers an extra hour off with one condition. The idea is simple. You can leave the office and do as you wish. Take a walk in the park and smell the flowers. The condition is that you can’t take your handheld device with you. France has done something not quite the same but even more radical. Under its new “right to disconnect” law, French employers must establish hours when employees aren’t allowed to send or answer after-hours business emails.
How about banning politics at work? Free speech advocates, of which I am one, may protest, but think of the benefits. Reducing everyone’s stress levels would increase productivity, and people would talk about other things (though not sex) at the water cooler or in the lunch room. Maybe that should be an after-hours rule as well, but without the sex exception. There must be other things to talk about.
Reading is a good habit, better in my opinion than watching television. Employees could be invited to bring a book to work and take an hour to read each week. That may not seem like enough time, but nothing says they can’t leave the TV off and read outside working hours as well. Depending on the book, this “work day read” idea may or may not conflict with my “no politics” and “no sex” rules. Maybe we could limit the reading to certain topics, climate change for example. That would be a way of reading non-fiction and fiction (according to E.P.A. Secretary Pruitt and some others) at the same time.
Another idea is to take what I saw going on outside my building and move it to the work day by giving employees an hour off to exercise. Not sex (see above). This idea is hardly original with me, and even though an hour a week may not be enough (also see above), it can help get you started. I read an article about something in our bodies called mitochondria, which help create energy in our cells. If I understand it correctly “you don’t need to sweat up a storm” in order to do good things for your energy level.
Finally, and this isn’t original with me either, give workers an hour weekly, or a half day every month, to volunteer in the community. This may not be good for your mitochondria, but it would be good for the soul.
Of course none of these suggestions quite measures up to the Swedish proposal.