The 24/7 Work Week

The 24/7 work weekIf you’re thinking that work demands are increasingly encroaching on your life at home … you’re not alone.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in survey results released earlier this summer, more Americans are using their weekends to get more done on the job. The results came from a survey that involved interviews with ~13,200 people over the age of 15.

Non-self-employed persons in office or administrative positions are less likely to be working on weekends. Only 20% of those folks report doing weekend work, compared to ~82% of them working on weekdays either full- or part-time.

But on a typical working day, nearly one in four employed Americans reported that they do at least some of their work at home. Not surprisingly, self-employed people are likely to do so, but those working in business management are more likely to do so as well.

The BLS reports that employed men spend, on average, 8 hours and 9 minutes per day on work or work-related activities. That’s a bit more time than employed women spend on work-related activities (their daily average was 7 hours and 26 minutes).

However, the trajectory appears to be upward for women and downward for men … so it may not be long before any difference between the genders completely disappears.

And for those people who work more than one job … that’s where weekends have lost most of their meaning as a time for R&R, because fully half of the people with multiple jobs find themselves working weekends.

As things evolve, it’s becoming pretty clear that the “Protestant Work Ethic” for which our society is so well known remains pretty robust, 200+ years on.

It reminds me of how a teacher of Russian History explained things to us students in class at Vanderbilt University back in my college years. Speaking of Southern Europe, this professor claimed, “People work to live” … whereas in Northern Europe, “They live to work.”

For some folks, as their working years grind on, they might be thinking that the whole enterprise has become a little sucky. But hopefully, most of us are performing tasks we like or love, so that it doesn’t seem quite so much like “work” … or apply whatever other coping mechanism does the trick!

What’s the Latest with Employee Satisfaction?

Coming off the worst recession in memory, just how happy are Americans in their jobs today?

An online survey of ~450 American adults conducted in late February by enterprise feedback management and research firm MarketTools has found that only ~34% consider themselves “very satisfied” in their current job positions:

 Very satisfied: ~34%
 Somewhat satisfied: ~40%
 Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied: ~10%
 Somewhat dissatisfied: ~10%
 Very dissatisfied: ~5%

Those results would seem to portend that a significant number of people will be looking to change jobs in the near-term future.

And in fact, nearly 50% of these respondents reported that they’ve “considered” leaving their current positions – and more than 20% have actually applied for another job within the past six months.

What’s causing dissatisfaction among employees? They’re the usual things, beginning with salary, although many respondents cited multiple contributing factors to employee dissatisfaction:

 Salary level: ~47% of respondents
 Level of workload: ~24%
 Lack of opportunity for advancement / career development: ~21%
 Relationship with manager / supervisor: ~21%
 Medical benefits issues: ~20%
 Work environment: ~14%
 Length of commute / distance from home: ~14%

It shouldn’t be too surprising to witness an increase in job-hopping behavior following economic downturns. For those lucky enough to have held onto their positions during the recession, the working environment has likely been more stressful, as employers required more productivity from fewer workers.

It’s also likely that benefits packages were reduced to some degree. So it’s only natural for people to nurse some residual negative feelings about the situation and to possibly consider jumping ship to another employer.

But would that be the best move?

Often, moving to a new employer doesn’t result in the improvements the employee expected to find. And smarter companies will use the improving economic climate (such as it is) to reward those employees who hung in there when times were tough. After all, these are their better workers!

Salary and benefit increases are always going to be appreciated … but so is the opportunity for continued growth and career development.

It’ll be quite interesting to see what the job-hopping statistics show a few months from now.

Surprise! Deep down, we actually like the 24/7/365 work environment.

It’s a common gripe you hear among business professionals: The proliferation of laptop computers and mobile communication devices has contributed to a “24/7/365” work culture, making it more difficult than ever to disengage from the office and putting bigger stresses on work-life balance.

The irony, people claim, is that laptops, PDAs and other equipment which promise to improve productivity and make daily work tasks easier, have actually created more work and resulted in longer hours devoted to the job. And you can’t escape it — at home, on vacation, or wherever you are.

But now, along comes a research study that gives the lie to these assertions. Manpower firm Kelly Services has just released the results of a massive worldwide survey of ~100,000 people in the workplace. Among the survey’s findings: Three-fourths of respondents appreciate the opportunity to remain in constant contact with work – even though one-third of them report working more hours each week as a result.

And among the North American survey respondents, 64% say they’re happy with their current work-life balance, and more than half claim their productivity at work is “much better” as a result of utilizing the new technologies.

So how do we explain the difference between all the negative “cocktail chatter” we hear … and the far more positive survey responses provided when no one’s looking?

It might be because people tend to exaggerate negative opinions – especially when surrounded by spouses and friends who are more than eager to lend moral support – all the while murmuring protestations of disapproval about the “big, bad organization.”

But I think the reason for the incongruity is more basic. On a theoretical level, most of us want to preserve the boundaries between our work life and our personal life. It just seems like it’s the correct position to take on the issue. But another part of us feels a need to stay connected … to be continually “in the know” and not miss a beat — even for an hour.

Moreover, in today’s challenging employment environment, being hyper-connected and super-clued in with the company is more crucial than ever, for self-preservation if for no other reason.

Besides, when it comes to being in control, most people just like that feeling — a lot.