Keep proper journalism alive. It's time to Back the Cable
The Bristol Cable

Bristol: a city of shirkers, or over-workers?

How do you claw back a little time from the grind?

Edition 6

How do you claw back a little time from the grind?06-shirkers or overworkers-side

Words: Jo Clarke

Illustration: Paul Mcquay (

A new study by the UK National Work-Stress Network found Bristol people take more days on the sick than in any other English city. Across the country, Office for National Statistics reports suggest, 55% of people work 30 to 45 hours a week, and 19% work more than 45. These numbers, which are creeping upwards, only reflect people’s main daily grind – they don’t consider second jobs or unpaid commitments. If we spend most of our time working, how can we attain that mythical work-life balance? In an effort to waste a few minutes find out, we asked for your expert advice on creative and subversive skiving methods – here are our favourites:

I take semi-regular, slightly-too-long toilet breaks. When I get there, I just sit down for a bit, play Minesweeper, or read a book.

“Complaining about your teeth is a bit more inventive than the normal stomach bug excuse. You can then hypothesise an imaginary dentist appointment on your return to work.”

“If you start a small fire in the kitchen then you’re out of action for a good 30 minutes.”

“I used to work on customer services, which included retrieving baskets stolen from the store. I’d get my mates to take a basket and then call customer services and request a pick-up. I’d then go round theirs for a beer and a 30-minute session playing computer games. Did this once a week for about a year.”

“Filling out pointless surveys – like this one.”

I just hide in one of the corners, where no one can see me, and play about on my phone, write to-do lists or just breathe deeply and tell myself “you’ll be out of here soon…”.

I was hungover and couldn’t face work, but as I had pulled a few sickies I needed something new and innovative. I went through a list of illnesses but had used most of them before. So I called my supervisor and when he came on the phone I just blurted out, “I’ve got swollen balls!” No questions asked, just a “see you when you’re next in”.

I go down to the stock room to have a look for something that we need, then when I’m down there I take a 10-minute nap.

Join 2,500 Cable members redefining local media

Your support will help the Cable grow, deepening our connections in the city and investigating the issues that matter most in our communities.

Join now

What makes us different?


Report a comment. Comments are moderated according to our Comment Policy.

Related content

Listen: The Debrief, digging deeper into revelations of institutional racism at a local NHS trust

Priyanka Raval discusses the inside story of her recent investigation into racism in health services, and what it says about the state of the NHS, with Cable colleague Matty Edwards.

‘Precarity is the thing that joins all this work together’: Bristol’s sex workers demand labour rights

The UK needs to decriminalise sex work to expand labour rights and protections to all, and enable sex workers to unionise, local activists say. 

Will AI free us from drudgery – or reduce us to robots?

Artificial intelligence already helps employers treat workers like robots – and the fear is that it could also take their jobs. Its huge potential benefits will only be shared if unions get to have their say.

‘The pressure is driving people out’: nursery workers warn government childcare reforms will backfire

The government has promised to expand free childcare, and confirmed it will relax permitted ratios of nursery workers to children. But staff around Bristol say nurseries won't survive these changes without a major funding boost.

How can workers turn strikes into wins?

As the cost of living crisis bites, recent months have seen the return of mass strikes. While the cards are stacked against workers, they have won important victories – how have these been achieved, and how can we build on them?

Why we need industrial correspondents

Strikes are back, but the industrial reporters have pretty much vanished. I sit down with industrial correspondents, past and present, to find out about life on the beat, and why reviving this coverage matters.

Join our newsletter

Get the essential stories you won’t find anywhere else

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter to get our weekly round-up direct to your inbox every Saturday

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to the Cable newsletter

Get our latest stories & essential Bristol news
sent to your inbox every Saturday morning