Can you find life after work?

For Stuart Levermore there is no better antidote to a 70-hour week in front of a computer screen than roaring off on his Honda. But there are other, gentler ways of unwinding after a manic day at the office.

When Stuart Levermore finally switches off his computer, its generally half way into the evening. Working as a CAD Engineer in a busy architectural practice may be one of the most cutting edge careers, but it's also one of the most high pressured. If there's a presentation to be done or a project to be finished then the concept of a nine- to-five day simply disappears. In a particularly busy week, Stuart has spent 70 hours in the office.

The hours he works may seem extreme, but they are not unusual. "The whole of the buildings services industry works to very tight deadlines and the pressure can be horrendous. The work has to be done so you have to work the hours - but I think that's true of many jobs these days - particularly for people who are just starting out."

Most people who work incredibly long hours often finish their day by slumping in front of the TV: staring, glassy eyed and exhausted at whatever is on before slipping gently into an uncomfortable sleep. For Stuart, however, the end of his day brings a transformation - one moment a mild mannered mouse manipulator, the next a leather clad speed freak who screeches back to Camberwell on his Honda CBR 400, leaving the stresses and strains of the day behind him.

"There's nothing like it," he grins, unconsciously patting his bike, rather like a proud father. "After a day stuck in front of a computer screen, it kind of reminds me that I'm living - that I do exist outside work."

Stuart's bike is also his hobby and he spends time on the weekends tinkering with it. "I'd hate to think of myself as some sort of bike anorak," he says, grinning, "but I get a real kick out of riding it and I like to look after it. Sometimes I'll clean it even when it doesn't need it. If life gets too stressful or I'm worried about something then I know I can just go off, away from everything. Its hard to explain to people who don't ride bikes, but when it's a sunny day, the bike is smooth and you switch off completely and just enjoy the ride".

According to Professor Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology at UMIST, Stuart is likely to be a far more productive and healthy member of the workforce for having an interest outside work. "We are becoming a workaholic culture," he says, "more and more people work evenings and weekends and have little life outside their work." He believes putting in such long hours can actually be counter productive. "Everyone needs a break from their working life, we all need some r&r and doing something completely different gives us that. If you just come home from work and collapse in front of the TV its probable that you are still thinking about your job. If you do something completely different then it allows you to shake off the working day."

For Kevin Jennings, tearing up and down a football pitch is his way of relinquishing his worries about the London Underground system. Working as a Project Engineer usually means an average of around 55 hours work a week, although if there's a deadline to work to it can mean a lot more. No amount of work, however, will stop him from his weekly appearance on one of the numerous football fields at Hackney Marshes.

"I have quite a lot of responsibility in my job, which makes for a fairly stressful existence," Kev admits. "Some nights I'll just come home and fall asleep but it helps to know that come Sunday, I'll be totally involved in something completely different. Playing in a team means you've got to concentrate and think about the game - you're competing and other people are relying on you. For those 90 minutes on the pitch I don't think of anything apart from who I'm going to pass to, or how to get the ball."

Exercise has long been thought of as one of the best forms of stress management, raising the endorphins in the brain and producing a general feeling of well being. "Exercise is such a good release and it's a way of shutting everything else out. Apart from the football itself, it's the whole thing of being in a team," says Kev, whose local pub sponsors the team in return for a guaranteed post match drink up on Sundays.

Not only does Kev take his mind off his job by playing football, he is also becoming part of the community - taking part in something that joins him to other people. "This is incredibly important" says Professor Cooper. "The community needs us, we need to put more into belonging to a community rather than existing in hermetically sealed bubbles. As we become a more mobile society, moving away from our extended families, it is important to forge bonds in the community, as a social support system and also give us a sense of belonging."

And communities are out there, offering all sorts of ways to join in and forget about the pressures of the day - even if it is only for a couple of hours a week. Joining a theatre group, belonging to a football or cricket team, or even going to an evening class can give you a sense of belonging to something else besides a work structure, and can help define your personality in other ways.

Katie Nesling, a 27-year-old careers officer, readily admits to being a bit of a couch potato up to about a year ago. "I did a lot of overtime and would often come home and eat dinner in front of the TV before going to bed. But when I split up with my boyfriend I found that sitting at home wasn't helping - I couldn't stop thinking about it. So I signed up for an evening class, doing pottery. I'd never done anything like it before - and I never actually made anything usable or recognisable but I still really enjoyed it - having somewhere to go and something to do that was completely different to work. I just forget about everything for those two hours - probably because I had to concentrate so hard because I was so useless!"

"It is essential that we learn how to balance home and work," says Professor Cooper, who has done extensive research into work related problems and believes that the long hours many people work can be directly linked to the fact that England has one of the highest divorce rates in the EU. "People should get involved in something outside work - maybe they can get involved with their family or partners. We prioritize work so highly these days - and other things are just as - if not more important.

"Become a local politician, sing an aria, recite Shakespeare, teach judo - do something," says Professor Cooper. "Life is not about work. It's time we got a more balanced attitude to living. Working hard and being committed is fine - continuously long hours are not. The phrase that's starting to be heard in America is 'work smart not long.' It's time that started to be taken on board over here."

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003