ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - March 2000

Issue Highlight - The Hunt For Next November

April in the state of Missouri is turkey-hunting season...For some reason the experience, despite its discomforts, is spiritually renewing and leaves you a little more optimistic about life.

In This Issue...
Angels With Rotary Wings
Reality Mirrors Movie
Stop The Merry-Go-Round
Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Diary of a Shutdown

Stop The Merry-Go-Round! I Want Off!
Balancing Work and a Personal Life Is a Struggle in the 24/7 Society

---Remember when we described the workday as 9:00 to 5:00? It wasn’t that long ago. Of course, many people worked on shift jobs that were 7:00-3:00, 3:00-11:00 and so forth. The pattern has changed and will change even more in the years ahead.

The workday is now “24/7”...another expression gaining in popularity. With a booming economy, there is much to be done. Work can’t all be finished in the traditional eight-hour day. Globalization influences working hours. Coworkers, suppliers and customers in other time zones around the world want to communicate on their time, not yours. The labor shortage has exacerbated the situation, motivating employers to encourage people to work as long as it takes to get the job done. High-tech firms are often characterized by long work hours, even round-the-clock marathons to complete projects. Workers wanting flexibility in their schedules—for childcare, commuting convenience or their biological clocks—are starting earlier and later and working earlier and later.

A recent phone survey of 3,000 Canadians revealed that only half are starting or ending work at the same time each day. Fewer than four percent reported a standard 9 to 5 day. The symptom of this evolution of working hours is the metropolitan commuting pattern. Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa are experiencing heavier late evening traffic as a result of people working longer days. Heavier early-morning rush hours are seen in major metropolitan areas in a number of countries.

Childcare providers who insist that parents pick-up their children by 6:00 will become few and far between. Some facilities are even shifting to the 24/7 mode. It’s increasingly difficult for working parents to commit to a specific pick-up time, even though most would prefer to have a more established schedule. Families are eating later in the evening, changing the homework, nutrition and relationship schedules of children—including students. Current and future generations may be much less schedule-based than generations of the past. This fluidity has its advantages, but will also take a toll on personal and family interactions and expectations.

The velocity of life has increased to the point that people realize they’re out of balance. Their stress levels are high. They want a solution to all the pressure. Now!
Recent surveys report that people want more flexibility in their lives. They want more time for themselves. “All work and no play” is taking its toll. Workers want to spend more time with their families and have time for personal pursuits like hobbies, exercise, reading or just watching the clouds float by.

One survey by “Fast Company” Magazine showed that 63 percent of college educated adults would work fewer or more flexible hours if money were not an issue. In the same study, 18 percent would work the same number of hours and 14 percent would quit working. The message here is that people want to work, they want to be productive, but they want to do it with less stress, less push.

Problem: There is still a lot of work to be done. And not enough people to get it all done.

Result: Under current conditions, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. The pressure will continue.

Solution: Change the way work is done. Change the relationship between workers, their work and their employers. Dramatic change. As Michael Hammer says, “We need to stop paving cow paths.” Even with all the tradition—“we’ve always done it this way”—the change will come. And it may come as revolutionary change, rather than evolutionary.

Prepare now by examining carefully all the things you’re doing in your life. What’s really important? What consumes your time because “we’ve always done that?” Define what results are really important for you and search for tasks you can eliminate from your life. Challenge, don’t just accept that everything must be done the way it’s been done in the past.

Clean up your life. Simplify, simplify. Get some more space in your life.


From “Trend Alert,” by Roger Herman and Joyce Goia, Strategic Business Futurists. (800) 227-3566 or

Balancing work and a personal life seems to be the issue of the millennium. Watch for a future special issue of News for a Change devoted entirely to that struggle.


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