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- British political strategist who served as chief adviser to UK prime minister from July 2019 until Nov 2020
Dominic Cummings wants to shake up the civil service by employing people to work round-the-clock – until they are as frazzled as Boris Johnson’s hair.
In a 2,900-word job advert that reads like a dystopian novella, the prime minister’s key advisor declared a plan to hire tech-savvy “weirdos and misfits” to work in Downing Street.
Much has been said about the ad’s oddly specific target demographic, but less has been said of the work-life balance advertised – or complete lack thereof.
Cummings is no proponent of the four-day working week, as it turns out. Prospective employees are told outright that the role will be “exhausting”.
“You will not have weekday date nights, you will sacrifice many weekends — frankly it will be hard having a boy/girlfriend at all,” the advert says.
Guffaws and raised eyebrows aside, this wording from a man with enormous influence at the highest level of government is not such a laughing matter.
If Dominic Cummings, a married father of one, expects his staff to operate like unsleeping, unfeeling machines, what precedent does that set for the rest of us?
The pressure of the UK’s increasingly demanding work culture is “perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population”, says the Mental Health Foundation.
Work-life balance is the most sought-after factor of worker job satisfaction, according to research by Totaljobs, which suggests Cummings may not be flooded with job applications to Number 10′s latest gmail account.
“Having quality time for personal life outside of work is vital for our mental wellbeing, while working intensely long hours can lead to burnout,” Stephen Warnham, jobs expert at the site told HuffPost UK.
“In turn, striking a healthy balance between work and home life means we’re more productive during contracted hours.”
Warnham described Cummings’ advert as “unusual” in that it’s so open about the lack of balance on offer. “Legally, the average working week should not exceed 48 hours – but this isn’t a limit on the time worked, and employers can make exceptions to this as part of an agreed contract,” he explained.
In 2020, a job advert that touts competitive tiredness and a disregard for employee wellbeing feels mind-bogglingly out of step and arguably more than a little contradictory of Cummings’ ambition to shake up the establishment.
A well-rested civil servant with a healthy home life is surely best placed to tackled the not inconsiderable duties of Whitehall in the coming year.
But for those “weirdos and misfits” tempted by Cummings’ offer, perhaps this short guide on legal rights and working hours might be useful.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.