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Who ever thought Simon Cowell would join the TWaT culture? After more than two decades in the public eye, the millionaire media mogul has built a reputation for hard work and unbounded ambition. But could he be mellowing with age?
Speaking to The Sun about his routine ahead of the launch of his new television series America’s Got Talent: Fantasy League, Cowell seemed to sympathise with hybrid workers who only go to the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (hence TWaT), saying it was a “a no from me” to working on Fridays.
“Don’t work on Fridays, because you don’t have to,” he said, when asked how he fits filming around the rest of his life. “Eat dinner at five o’ clock. Don’t take calls after 5.30. Don’t read emails after 5.30. Watch a happy movie. And stay outside… I’m not kidding about the Fridays. I don’t think anyone should be working five days a week. It’s just pointless.”
Easy to say for a multi-millionaire music industry executive approaching retirement age, but for those with responsibilities that go beyond sitting in a chair and berating would-be performers, does his advice hold water?
1. “Don’t work on Fridays because you don’t have to”
No one has to work Fridays. Except doctors obviously. Ambulance workers too. In fact, maybe some hospitality staff should be on shift, and yes, teachers should work Fridays too. A plumber or two might need to be on call, just in case of leaks.
Sarcasm aside, when 61 UK businesses joined the biggest four-day week pilot last year, reactions were mixed, and only 18 of the businesses have adopted the practice permanently so far.
“There’s a concern that compressing the same amount of work into fewer days could lead to increased stress and longer work hours on those days,” says business psychologist Dannielle Haig, who contributed research to the study.
“We shouldn’t slip into a mindset that Fridays are pointless; there are so many variables at play. Some studies suggest that productivity can wane towards the end of the week due to fatigue and reduced motivation. However, this isn’t universally true; some people achieve more on Fridays as they have fewer meetings and can manage their time more effectively.”
Some businesses do choose to start winding down on Friday afternoons. In fact, job market statistics firm Adzuna found 1,400 job listings mentioned the perk of “early finish Fridays” in job descriptions in 2023, compared with just 583 in 2018.
2. “Eat dinner at five o’clock”
Cowell isn’t entirely incorrect in his suggestion that it’s worth eating dinner earlier rather than later. If you can grab a sandwich on the train home or better yet, if your workplace supplies dinner (sadly only 16 per cent of UK businesses do according to business research firm Wonder), it may help you to shrink your waistline and get better sleep.
“The most effective thing people can do for their weight loss is to eat a couple of hours earlier in the evening than they might think – I’d say three or four hours before bed,” says Ulrike Kuehl, head of nutrition at the metabolism-tracking app Lumen.
“If you eat late at night, it increases blood glucose and insulin, which negatively impacts sleep. The cells of your metabolism need time to rest and regenerate so if those cells are active your body has trained itself not to shut down until they do.”
3. “Don’t take calls after 5.30. Don’t read emails after 5.30”
France, Spain, Slovakia and Ireland have all enshrined a legal right for workers to “disconnect” (that is, not work, be called or emailed outside of contracted hours) but it’s a grey area in the UK. In fact, according to TELUS Health, an employee wellbeing company, 26 per cent of workers say colleagues and managers contact them about work out of hours.
However, it is worth noting that it is illegal for employers to demand employees be “on call” unless it is specifically stated in their job contract.
According to Citizens Advice, “if your employer asks you to stay at your workplace and you have to be available to work when they ask, all the time you’re ‘on call’ counts as working time. If you’re staying at home or somewhere of your own choosing, and you can take part in leisure activities or sleep, you shouldn’t count this as working time. Time you spend ‘on call’ at home doesn’t count as working time until you’re actually doing work.”
4. “Watch a happy movie”
There is certainly something to be said for watching an enjoyable film. The key is to pick one which evokes a sense of nostalgia, explains Dr Wing Yee Cheung, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Winchester.
“People naturally draw on nostalgic memories to feel more confident about themselves, to feel closer and create social connection with others, to boost self-esteem, help find meaning in life,” explains Dr Cheung, going on to say that nostalgia can “give you a better sense of clarity” and help “prioritise what’s important to you”.
5. “And stay outside”
It might send most normal people’s eyes rolling, especially those who, unlike Cowell, don’t live in Beverly Hills. Still, he might have a point here too. Researchers on a 2020 study from Cornell University found that 10 to 15 minutes in natural spaces were the most effective way of improving mood and focus, as well as lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
One potential explanation is that plants drop natural chemicals called phytoncides, “which help them fight against bacteria, viruses and fungi”, explains Dr Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, chief scientific adviser for walking app AllTrails.
“It has been theorised that when we breathe in these phytoncides perhaps that is happening for us as well, the phytoncides benefit us in the same way they benefit plants.”
Being outdoors in the light is also thought to be better for you than sitting inside. “The idea now is that every organ, and possibly every cell has its own clock, and these are synchronised by a clock in the brain, which itself is set by photo-receptors in the eye that respond to light,” says Professor David Whitmore, who specialises in chronobiology (the way that our biology is affected by time) at University College London.
So there you have it. While Cowell’s advice is somewhat impractical for those who aren’t the owners of a record label with an estimated £385 million in the bank, he’s not wrong on any count. Whether he’s out of touch, however, we’ll leave for you to decide.