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Business - Written by on Tuesday, December 18, 2007 17:57 - 5 Comments

Naumi Haque
Work, work, work… let’s go back to rockin’ like the 70’s

The Net Generation is online at work and working at home. The combination of 1) Net Geners entering the workforce in growing numbers and 2) the pervasiveness of mobile technologies is causing a blurring between work time and personal time. On one hand, workers are demanding flexible work schedules, the opportunity to work from home, and a less draconian approach to time management while in the office. However, the irony is that the tools that enable mobility and flexibility are the same technologies that bind employees to an always-on, always connected virtual office.

Just like everything else, the chains too have become virtual. So, for example, an employee with a company-owned Blackberry or laptop has the ability to use the device for personal or work use, from any number of locations (home, the office, the train, or Starbucks), at whatever time suits their schedule. But, it’s a double edged sword. The employee’s boss and co-workers also have the ability to reach them anywhere and at any time, and may even expect a prompt response.

Given this paradox (especially among knowledge workers), it becomes very difficult to measure things like work hours, worker productivity, and work/life balance. As a society, are we getting lazier or working harder? Are we more efficient or simply defining work differently? These are the thoughts that went through my mind as I looked at some of the more recent data on time use in North America.

For example, Burst Media recently reported that 26% of “online at-work” time is spent on personal use and not work-related activities. Among 18 to 24 year-olds, personal use comprises a whopping 34% of online activities while at the office. But does this mean that Net Geners are lazy (i.e. the “bored at work generation” phenomenon)? Maybe; however, it could also mean that work time and personal time are fluid concepts to this demographic and there is an equal or greater amount of time spent working from home in the evenings or on weekends. This could be why three-quarters of respondents to the Burst Media survey reported not feeling guilty about using the Internet for personal use while on the company dime.

The 2006 U.S. Department of Labor Time Use Survey show that the average full-time employee works 8.1 hours per day. The average workday is 8.5 hours long Monday to Friday, but 35% of all respondents also report working on weekends and holidays during which the average workday is 5.6 hours. Among those respondents with Bachelor’s degrees and higher (presumably encompassing the knowledge worker demographic), 39% report working on weekends and holidays for an average of 3.9 hours per day. Additionally, 37% of employees with a Bachelor’s degree or higher work from home for an average of 2.7 hours per day.

Of course, it’s really hard to dig into the numbers without knowing how people are defining work and what type of work they are doing, but right off the bat this suggests to me that we’re working pretty hard. Now, if you ask the folks at Harris Interactive, they’d likely point to the fact that compared to workers in the 90’s, we’re a bunch of slackers. According to finding from their most recent time use poll (below), work hours in 2007 are the lowest they’ve been since the 70’s. This only confirms what I’ve learned from movies like Animal House and Dazed and Confused – clearly the 70’s were the bomb! With 26 hours a week of keg parties, cool cars, easy women, and rock n’ roll, who had time for work?

hours-per-week.jpg
Source: Harris Interactive, November 2007

Here’s another thought: Could it be that actual work increased from the 70’s to the late 90’s (as shown) and in fact continues to grow, but the hours needed to complete the same amount of work (and more) decreased in recent years due to the productivity benefits afforded by the Internet? I would suggest that “yes,” this is in fact what’s happening to some degree, although we can expect the benefits to plateau in the next decade. See, we’re not a lazy generation after all.

Ok, now back to surfing the net at the office and finishing my online Christmas shopping…



5 Comments

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Thusenth
Dec 19, 2007 10:55

Week full of hours = 24*7 = 168
Hours asleep = 7*7 = 49

Available awake hours = 168-49 = 119

‘The Lost’ Hours = 119-65 = 54

What are us Ngens doing during this amount of time???

bberrywidow
Dec 19, 2007 12:33

re: the “always-on, always connected virtual office”, I recently found myself requesting that my partner refrain from using the blackberry in bed during “normal sleeping hours”.

Naumi Haque
Dec 19, 2007 15:04

Thusenth makes a good point. Where does the time go? I pulled some stats from the Department of Labor survey for three relevant demographics: Working adults with young kids, working adults with no kids, and young adults.

Bberrywidow, presumably the time spent on e-mail is much higher for those Crackberrys addicts in the family ; )

Dave Atkins
Dec 20, 2007 23:04

I think the world of work is in great flux right now. There are many who are still workaholics. But many younger and older workers are choosing to “Live First, Work Second.”

Us older Generation X folks are having kids now. We’ve been there and done that with respect to the 12-hour workdays and 3am work emails. It’s just not efficient anymore and we refuse to do it. I find ways to combine my work and other pursuits and have stopped keeping track of the hours. As long as my boss trusts me and I produce, I know that merely showing up early and leaving late won’t help my career at all.

I think it is silly to attempt to meter my time. If you do, then you need to keep track of all the wasted time that an employer sucks out of a worker’s life. How many hours do you spend in meetings where you have nothing to contribute? How much time do you spend working on projects that go nowhere or are canceled? Too many people allow their time to be wasted in things like that and then have to work extra hours to make up for it.

Be proactive and constructive instead of a martyr. I’m not saying that job dissatisfaction gives you an excuse to goof off. But if you find yourself working constantly you should ask yourself why and do something about it if you don’t like it that way.

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » 72 is the new 24. Welcome to the Microsoft Business Hours approach to life.
Dec 21, 2007 10:32

[...] later and just explain that you were taking the business hours approach to life. Combine this with Naumi Haque’s proposal of going back to rockin’ like the 70’s and what a glorious world it could [...]

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