Peter Block Column
Views for a
Diary of a
Stop The Merry-Go-Round! I
Balancing Work and a
Personal Life Is a Struggle in the 24/7
---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
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
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.
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.
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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