Magazine

No more weekends lost to work

For millions of people in the UK, the normal working week is Monday to Friday. But for many, the weekend is when it all takes place. BBC business journalist Joe Lynam relishes not having to turn down any more wedding invitations and match tickets as he shifts to weekday working.

For four years, my working week was in reverse to most of society. Monday morning was the sweetest part of the week and Thursday evening had to be an early night.

While at work between Friday morning and Sunday night, all my phone calls to contacts had to begin with the phrase: "I'm sorry for disturbing you at the weekend but..."

On the other end of the line in the background, I could usually hear screaming children, supermarket tannoys, swearing football fans or pure silence.

If you're one of the many people in the UK who work weekends, you're doubtless familiar with empty corridors, deserted car parks and abandoned desks.

Of course, if you're in the hospitality sector such as pubs, hotels and entertainment venues, the opposite is the case. Your workplace fills up and your workload doubly so.

Image caption The way you read your weekend papers may depend on whether you are at work or not

Working in London at weekends means the TFL (Transport for London) website almost becomes your home page due to the constant line closures and planned engineering works ahead of the Olympics. I was like a man on the run - never taking the same route to work twice.

And while making my way to work on a Saturday morning, I must have stuck out like a sore thumb. Most people don't wear a full suit and tie on the train or bus to work.

Of course, the reverse is also true, there aren't many men of working age hanging out in parks midweek, reading a book or newspaper in casual clothes. I was conscious of mothers eyeing me suspiciously while they played with their children.

So I had plenty of free time during the week for long, gossipy chats or leisurely jogs or strolls through town. Strangely my friends seemed less inclined to join me on my relaxing sojourns. I put that down to poor time management.

Not having had children (until this year), I didn't have to do school runs, change nappies, correct homework or counsel distressed teenagers, which basically meant I had a lot time on my hands.

Time - unlike the rest of the economy - to learn a new language, lunch with contacts, visit museums and galleries and attend midweek sporting events.

And I was able to sign for packages from Royal Mail, do my shopping in an empty supermarket, prepare a proper meal for my partner for when she got home, clean the flat thoroughly and enjoy late nights out.

Image caption Signing for packages - a benefit of weekday leisure

I could also process mundane stuff like dealing with local authorities, being at home to meet plumbers and tradesmen, get quotes, repair things, paint the flat, etc.

Not that I could fully switch off while not at work - of course, I had to stay across all the main stories. And if I did try to join the rest of society on a Saturday night out, it was usually interrupted by the BBC newsdesk telling me that a particular Sunday paper was reporting something interesting and could I file a radio piece immediately.

I remember going to a Halloween party at a colleague's house on a Saturday evening only to get that call. I was dressed up as Darth Maul from Star Wars (Prequel # I) and my Treasury contact, who I had to call to discuss a banking story, admitted that he was dressed as a vampire at the other end of the line.

And as for the actual job I did - one of the great misconceptions about weekend media consumption is that we all switch off from Friday evening to Monday morning. The exact opposite is true, given the buck for all business and economics stories used to stop at my door at weekends.

And believe me major business stories do break at weekends. Lehman Brothers, RBS bailouts, BP oil slicks, BA strikes, Eurozone crises and major summits. They all seem to have broken on my watch over the past four years.

Now that I'm set to return to join the rest of the world at work during the week, it'll mean I'll have to work more hours and more days.

So, why change?

Image caption Weddings are more likely to be held at the weekend

Well, I like the idea of actually seeing the woman I live with - given that I've spent few Saturday or Sunday afternoons with her - and our new-born son.

I've also had to reject several wedding invitations, dozens of match tickets and countless nights out because I had to work. But most of all, I've missed "weekenders" away in some of Europe's great cities - including my former hometown of Dublin.

I've loved almost (though not every) minute of my working life since 2008. Now I have to reassign my emotions to dreading Mondays and relishing Fridays like everyone else.

Joe Lynam is a correspondent for Newsnight on BBC Two.