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Discovery Surveys, Inc.
Specializing in Employee Opinion and Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Improving the Workplace
CAN YOU WORK AND STILL HAVE A LIFE?

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.

Can you work and still have a life?
Two out of five employees say, "NO!"

Part 1 - THE PROBLEM:

Two out of five employees say they are dissatisfied with the balance they have between their work and personal lives. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Long Work Hours

    According to the Employment Policy Foundation, one out of seven American employees work more than 40 hours a week -- an average of an additional 8 hours on the job.

  2. Changing Demographics

    According to U.S. Census Data, in 1940 67% of working households consisted of a married couple with a single wage earner, usually the husband. This dropped to only 25% in 2000, and is projected to drop to 17% by 2030. Therefore, in most households today there is no one home during the workday to run errands and conduct routine tasks.

  3. More Time in the Car

    Suburban sprawl has resulted in longer commuting times. Furthermore, many of our children can no longer walk home from school or to their after-school activities. They need to be car-pooled. Commuting and car-pooling are both time and energy hogs.

  4. Deterioration of Boundaries Between Work and Home

    Voice mail, email, cell phones, lap tops, and palm pilots have meant that the office is omnipresent. We just can't get away.

  5. Increased Work Pressure

    Job security is now an oxymoron. Employees feel that they must work longer hours to impress their bosses and keep their jobs.

  6. Employer Responses Have Been Inadequate

    Many progressive employers have made the problem worse by providing after-hours meals and services such as dry clearing and oil changes. Although well intentioned, these efforts have only made it easier for employees to work more, not fewer, hours.

Part 2 - WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN DO

Successfully tying pay to job performance is possible but very difficult to accomplish. Here are a few principles that can help.

  1. What the Research Says

    According to research studies conducted by The Boston College Center for Work and Family (www.bc.edu/cwf), the most effective strategy for increasing productivity and life satisfaction is something called "daily flex time."

  2. What is Daily Flextime?

    It is not the same as traditional flextime or telecommuting. Daily flextime is a schedule that enables employees to vary their work hours on a daily basis. This is different from traditional flex time in which there is a certain set of core hours and the employee can vary only their start and end times.

  3. Why is Daily Flextime Effective?

    There is a psychological concept called "perception of control," that I believe plays a large role in the level of anxiety of employees. Psychological studies have shown that anxiety is greatly reduced if we perceive that we have control of our situation. Surprisingly, this is true even if we don't actually use the control.

For example, in WWII post-traumatic anxiety was found to be highest among bomber crews, less among bomber pilots, and least among fighter pilots. Bomber pilots had more control than their crews, but bombers were restricted to flying in a level formation. Even though fighter pilots had more flexibility to engage in evasive maneuvers, their actual casualty rate was the highest of the three groups. Thus it was the "perceived control" -- not the actual control -- that determined their level of anxiety.

Providing employees with daily flextime enables them to feel in more control of their time and their space. This not only reduces their general anxiety, but also provides them with the opportunity to achieve better balance by attending special family events, visiting a doctor during the day, or even going home to take a nap.

I am very much interested in your views on this topic.
Please reply with your comments and suggestions to .

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