The workplace of today and what is predicted for the future certainly doesn’t resemble the workplace
that most people entered ten, fifteen, or thirty years ago.For a variety of reasons, it has become increasingly difficult for most of us to feel satisfied with our work situation.Another reason employees feel frustrated and dissatisfied is that most corporations, whether large or small, still manage their employees based on the old “bricks-and-mortar” model in which “everyone works in one place.” Many companies either can’t figure out how to design a new model or are changing very slowly to support different lifestyle needs and create a flexible workforce. People get frustrated with this slow pace and increasingly are going to work for savvy companies who they think meet their employees’ needs in this area. Ben, for example, designed audio equipment for a small company, commuting 112 miles every day for three years. Even though he could
be very productive working in his home office, his employer didn’t believe in telecommuting, thinking that if an employee wasn’t in his company office, he wasn’t working. Although Ben loved his job, his boss, and the company overall, at forty-seven, he wanted to eliminate, or at least reduce, the stress of a long commute. He found a job with a larger audio company and now works from his home. When he gave his notice to his employer,in an attempt to keep him, they grudgingly agreed to allow Ben to work at home once a week. While it was tempting to stay, Ben knew they never would fully support him and he accepted the new job. As he anticipated, he feels healthier and the stress created by driving a long distance to work every day is gone.
In today’s work climate, more and more individuals are beginning to question the grueling pace at which they lead their lives. In an effort to manage this issue, some companies have instituted policies that support maintaining “balance” between work and an employee’s personal life. For example, several years ago, Microsoft created a new vacation policy for its senior executives that allows them to take as much vacation as needed. Although research shows that most high-level executives don’t use all of their allotted vacation time, this was Microsoft’s way of showing appreciation for its leaders. In fact, a survey conducted by Personnel Decisions International, a human resources consulting company, in 2000, revealed that nearly half of the workers surveyed at all levels said that the time they commit to work has increased in the past five years, with the average workweek for a full-time employee clocking in at 49.2 hours. And according to a Families and Work Institute study,6 percent of those surveyed bring work home more than once a week. Verizon, a major telecommunications company, surveyed its employees about working while on vacation, and half admitted they either call in to work or check their e-mail while away on vacation. What does all this prove?
Psychologically, the concept of introducing balance into one’s life seems far-fetched and unrealistic for many workers.Why? The demands of today’s workplace are excessive for most people. With technology allowing twenty-four-hour communication, employees feel obligated to work all the time, whether it be on weekends or on vacation. Even more important, many companies that have policies that support balance can give employees a mixed message about whether it’s acceptable to leave the office at a reasonable hour or take all of the vacation and personal time allotted in the company employee handbook. If senior management and the corporate culture demonstrate that succeeding means working around the clock, then the pressure of fitting in and doing what it takes to get the job done can override the desire to lead a balanced life.