Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is Working 24/7 the New Normal?

Achieving work/life balance has been credited with making workers more productive, more loyal and less stressed, and yet a recent survey from Harvard Business School shows that even global executives feel the need to be on the job 24/7. One even commented that his own inability to delegate means that subordinates should “be prepared to get emails at night.”

Said another: “I think that people today expect that you are available and going to be available at all times, and if you don’t return an email within an hour, or even minutes, then people think that you are not paying attention to them.”

“It’s not an objective; it is not something I want to do,” he said.

Meg Cadoux Hirshberg knows a thing or two about trying to juggle the demands of work and a personal life. As the wife of Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farm, she and her husband struggled to balance the demands of a business with the demands of their children and marriage. Meg has also been busy with her own career as the author of two yogurt cookbooks and as a regular columnist for Inc. magazine. She currently is promoting a new book, “For Better or for Work.” I caught up with her to see what survival lessons she could share about balancing life in this 24/7 culture.

AB: Because of the difficult economy in the last several years, do you feel finding a work/life balance has become more difficult?

MH: Intuitively, I do feel it’s more difficult because we’re all under so much pressure to find a job or keep a job and that becomes the crisis. We tend to prioritize whatever is screaming the loudest and a lot of times other things fall by the wayside even if you don’t want them to.

AB: What are some of the common complaints you hear?

MH: Everyone is distracted, which is not new. But with the devices that keep us available 24/7, it’s more imperative than ever than we consciously prioritize our friends, our family and our community. There are some kinds of jobs that require you to think even when you’re not at work. We’ve got salaried executives who don’t take the vacation time they’re allotted because they don’t feel they can and they want to show they’re working hard, especially in a tough economy. So that means that critical bonding time with family starts to ebb away.

AB: But couldn’t they still stay connected to work even on a vacation, but still spend time with their family?

MH: I’m a big believer in vacations. It says to other people when you take that time away with them that you’re sweeping everything else aside and making the unspoken statement: “This is important to me.” You’re creating memories. If you’ve got to bring a device, at least limit the time you’re on it.

AB: Do you think work/life balance is more difficult for women than for men?

MH: I do think that women have a much heavier cross to bear. The bulk of maintaining the household falls to women. They’re expected to have dinner on the table ....(read the rest here)


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