A Modern Solution for Rest is needed in a Post-Sabbath World

The loss of regular rest in a modern world is negatively affecting family life, mental health, and the environment, claims a new national report.

The report, called “Just Work” by theological think tank Theos, shows how the world of work is changing with more people working from home 24/7, increased surveillance of employees, and increased unpaid overtime. All of which has been exacerbated by more people working from home due to Covid-19.

This shift in work culture, combined with the loss of Sabbath practice, means “we have lost time for the reflection, recentering, and leisure that it brings”, states the report, which will be launched tomorrow (July 20th). It adds: “The biblical idea of a Sabbath is an ancient answer to a very modern anxiety”, and argues such days of rest also allow our natural environment to rest.

Theos is now calling on the Government for extra bank holidays and measures to combat increasing unpaid overtime to help the nation get the rest it needs. It’s also recommending that retraining budgets be made available as robots and technology take work from humans.

Dr. Madeleine Pennington, Head of Research at Theos, said: “The restorative powers of the Sabbath and the right to switch off have never felt so poignant. We can take this as an opportunity to reassess the concept of work within Christianity, and rediscover patterns of rest for human beings and for ecosystems.”

The report also argues that the Christian tradition is deeply interested in the role of work in human life, and defends it as good. “Work connects us to prosperity, to community, and gives meaning.” 

Christians are being urged to take ethical approaches in the modern workplace to humanise and improve employee conditions. Christian-led cleaning company Clean for Good was heralded in the report for doing just this.

Created by a parish of churches in the City of London, the company pays the real living wage and makes sure all cleaners have decent terms and conditions, and access to training and personal development. 

The report, written by Paul Bickley and Barbara Ridpath, also adds that Christian investors should include clear requirements on fair handling of wages, benefits, agency work, outsourcing, and employee surveillance before investing in companies.

Finally, it highlights that Christian employers can also help improve working conditions by introducing workplace chaplaincy to provide a safe space for staff to voice concerns, uncertainties, and hopes as well as provide pastoral care.

Written by: Abbie Allison

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