OPINION: Why seeking a better work-life balance was one of my best decisions

Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy is presenting his last breakfast show today after two decades, off and on, in the early-morning seat. This was him at the controls in 2005. - Credit: Jerry Turner

Today Mark Murphy will be signing off his Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Suffolk and moving to a new weekend slot that doesn't have such punishing hours.

It will feel odd not to use his Cornflake Conundrum as my cue to get out of bed in the morning but I fully understand his reasons for making the change - and I know he'll love presenting his new weekend shows.

He told me he'll still be working five days a week - but without the 3.30am starts he'll be able to find a better work/life balance.

I'm sure it is right for him and I know exactly how he feels because I made a similar move last year - it was the best decision I've made this century!

Last August, at the age of 62, I took the decision to cut my hours from full-time to three days a week. It was due to a combination of factors put into focus by the Covid pandemic and my health issues that I wrote about recently.

It wasn't that I couldn't take the pace any more - I just wanted more time to do the things I really wanted to while I still could. I'm lucky. I was in a position where I could do that with the full backing of my family and employer.

This has, apparently, become quite a common phenomenon among more mature members of the workforce as Covid restrictions have eased over the last year or so - and it's attracted quite a lot of comment from both people in general and politicians in particular.

Most Read

I met someone at the Suffolk Show that I hadn't seen since 2019 and I told him about my change in working arrangements: "Ah, you're a TWAT then!" he said.

Slightly nonplussed I asked what he meant: "It's what people in the City call their colleagues who come into the office on Tuesday, Wednesday And Thursday," he explained. 

Along with the working from home debate, there are also persistent reports that government ministers (particularly Jacob Rees-Mogg) are irritated about the number of 50+ workers who are cutting down their hours after the Covid pandemic.

Surely that is a matter of free choice - it's what the Conservative Party has been preaching for as long as I can remember. If someone wants to work less hours and wants to take the financial hit that results, surely that is up them.

Why should ministers feel it is all right to turn around and accuse them of being lazy?

I really would have thought the idea of a phased retirement is something that should be welcomed - better to have a well-motivated part-time workforce than staff who are struggling to keep up the pace five days a week.

And for those of us getting older it gives us the chance to carry on hopefully doing something worthwhile at least part of the time - we all know people who have been working full time until their 65th birthday and then suddenly stop and don't know what to do with themselves.

A mixture of work and leisure is the perfect way to ease yourself into retirement - and there could be benefits to society as well. How many might think three days a week isn't too bad and carry on after they were planning to retire?

As a society, we need to look at how everyone is given the best possible chance to make the best of their life - while remembering that we are all individuals (to quote Life of Brian!).

One 60-year-old might be full of beans and keen to carry on with a career they've been doing for decades. Another might feel the need to wind-down and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.

Making a firm rule that applies to everyone is neither sensible nor acceptable in today's world.

Welcome to a calmer pace of life, Mark. We still have much to offer - but we need to live our life at our own pace!