Urban Pioneers: Barcelona’s Time Policy Officer

25 March 2024

In the latest article in our Urban Pioneers series, we uncover the ins and outs of Sonia Ruiz Garcia’s role as Barcelona’s Time Policy Officer. Sonia is responsible for managing and implementing time-related policies across the city.  

Time is an unseen and yet, undeniably precious resource. Barcelona was one of the first cities to recognise its crucial role in urban management. When viewed through the lens of a fundamental right, time becomes a political concern. Time and the way it is organised in society directly impact public and environmental health.  

The disruption of daily rhythms, intricately tied to our inner clock’s precise regulation of critical functions like behaviour, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature, and metabolism, has been linked to several health issues, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, weight issues, and mental dysfunctions.

The structuring of time can yield substantial environmental benefits, evident in initiatives such as the implementation of ’15-minute cities’ or aligning work schedules with natural daylight. Such measures not only reduce reliance on artificial lighting but also contribute to significant reductions in cities’ carbon footprints.  

Barcelona stands out as a pioneer in time policy. It has been carrying out time policies since 2003 when it created Spain’s first time use council. In 2014, the city approved a Time Pact to promote a healthier, more egalitarian and sustainable use of time for its citizens. And in 2022/2023, it was even named the first World Capital of Time Policies by The Network of Local and Regional Governments for Time Policies 

What are you trying to achieve in your position?  

As Time Policy Officer, I work to promote a more equitable, sustainable, resilient and healthy organisation of time for Barcelona residents. Barcelona’s Time Agreement encompasses more than 235 entities that work for this harmonisation of time and includes the more than 140 companies that belong to our network of companies.  

The Xarxa Nust, a network of companies for a new working time, aims to foster a work culture and time management practices that achieve a more balanced alignment between individuals’ time needs and the organisation’s demands for competitiveness and productivity. It advocates for changes that propel progress in this direction. 

This is a very ambitious objective, which is why it must be a long-term objective. In the short term, we focus on developing the more than 75 actions implemented by Barcelona City Council with a time dimension in the areas of: education, employment, policies aimed at citizens, sustainable city, participation, care and health.  

What’s your personal motivation to do this job?  

My personal motivation is service to citizens and work for social justice. Women, immigrants and single-parent families are disproportionately affected by time poverty. My work is to implement policies that ease this burden. The best day at the office is actually when I’m out of the office and instead, working directly with citizens to approach their needs, seeking to hear first-hand proposals and demands for much-needed public solutions.  

Equipping a company or organisation with all the available tools for a better organisation of time in order to benefit all its members is the most rewarding part of my role.  

What are your main challenges? 

The main challenge is to address time policies based on the real needs of citizens and organisations. Fortunately, our collaborative approach with other bodies in the city council enables us to tackle this challenge effectively. I am lucky to have a team made up of very valuable professionals, with whom working is a pleasure and from whom I learn something new every day.

We work a lot from transversality in our approach, aiming to engage the entire organisation in achieving our objectives. Over thirty municipal bodies actively participate in our time strategy. Together we can put the right to time and the reduction of time poverty in the forefront as priority issues on the political agenda.  

When was the last time you felt that your position had a positive impact on your city’s inhabitants?  

Initiatives such as ‘Concilia’, Barcelona’s municipal babysitting initiaiive, and ‘Time for You’, aimed at granting leisure time to those with limited availability, are two projects that have a direct benefit to individuals. Witnessing these tangible impacts brings me a lot of joy.  

We also have a collection of dossiers starting from 2006 that address relevant aspects of time policies. The last publication is about time poverty in Barcelona, ‘From poverty of time to time for life’. It includes theoretical approaches and practical guidelines after conducting participatory sessions from which we learned a lot. 

The hardest thing is seeing how all the needs are never fully met.  

If you had a magic wand, what could significantly improve the way you do your job?  

I would erase time poverty and smash the patriarchy.  

Pitch your job to other local, regional, national or European governments.  

Re-appropriating time is essential to have a full life. Local governments have the responsibility to contribute to the redistribution of time and labour. We must commit to making time a citizen’s right, reducing time poverty and helping to organise time in a more sustainable, egalitarian, efficient and healthy way.  

At Barcelona City Council we are available to help other local governments on this path. And we invite you to be part of the Local and Regional Governments Time Network, the unique worldwide association of cities and regions that promote and implement time policies. It is composed of local and regional governments committed to time reorganisation to improve their citizens’ life and ensure the right to time. 


This interview is part of ‘Urban Pioneers,’ a Eurocities series published every second and fourth week of the month spotlighting innovative and original job positions in municipalities across Europe. Each article in this series highlights a job position aimed at improving wellbeing, health conditions, society and the environment in cities. From tackling the urban heat island effect to countering gender imbalances to encouraging sustainable mobility, ‘Urban Pioneers’ showcases how cities are leading by example and breaking new ground in enhancing people’s quality of life. ‘Urban Pioneers’ jobs can inspire national, regional and EU authorities to create similar positions in their own structures, multiplying across Europe’s regions and nations the positive impact that started in cities.

Article one: Officer for Basic Research in Women´s Issues in Vienna

Article two: Malmo’s Skateboarding Coordinator

Article three: Amsterdam’s Bicycle Mayor

Article four: Brussel’s Bouwmeester Maitre Architecte

Article five: Munich’s Head of the Equal Opportunities Office for Women 

Article six: Vienna’s Integration Officer

Article seven: Antwerp’s Chief Resilience Officer

Article eight: Dortmund’s Night Manager

Article nine: BYCS’ Rome Bicycle Mayor


Alyssa Harris Eurocities writer