Weekly Wrap: Working All the Time From Everywhere? Just the New Normal

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The new work life balance: We’re not working more, just differently

I saw this today on Cindy Krischer Goodman‘s Work/Life Balancing Act blog, at the Miami Herald,  and I was intrigued by her perspective on the changing nature of work and workplaces.

Here’s a little of what Cindy said

The longer I write about work-life balance, the more I hear and see that technology challenges are universal. From CEOs to sales persons, today’s workers are trying to build balanced lives by battling the impulse to stay connected 24/7. Checking work emails on our tablets or smartphones in bed or at a bar makes us feel like we’re working all the time.

The reality, though, is more complicated.

While we are logging onto work outside of traditional work hours — from our bed or a soccer practice — we are also taking time for our personal lives during our work day. Almost everyone, from the office secretary to the store manager, makes a personal digital escape thoughtlessly throughout the day. … 

While at work, we’re checking our fantasy football results, browsing our Facebook feeds, shopping on Amazon, playing Candy Crush, catching up on news, talking to friends on Twitter and texting constantly during the day.

Work and home no longer are separate spheres. Blurred lines are the new normal.”

People are working differently

I think Cindy is on to something here. Are people really working longer and harder today, or just different? I think you can make a good case that both of these things are going on.

For one, I DO believe that a great many people are working a lot harder today than they did pre-recession. The people who managed to stay employed during the layoffs, furloughs, and downsizings from 2008 on were, in many cases forced, to take on a lot of additional work — work that generally hasn’t gone away.

But, people are also working differently now, too.

With the advent of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, we can be working on a project one moment and then buying concert tickets or checking our Fantasy Football lineup the next. More importantly, employees everywhere are increasingly comfortable with the blurring of lines between our work and our personal lives and do it now without so much as a second thought.

Cindy quotes Miami Stonegate Bank executive Erin Knight who says ” There are no more traditional business hours. I can keep deals moving along and take phone calls on the go, wherever I go.”  I’m like that, too, and a I find that I often can head off problems a lot faster by being able to respond to an email about a work issue while I’m out at my sister-in-law’s Mexican restaurant having dinner.

A blending and blurring of life roles

But, a lot of this is happening because workers are so busy on the job. Cindy quotes researcher Laura Demasi who makes the observation that, “For every moment we give away to work outside of traditional work hours … we claw back when we’re officially at work.”

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Yes,  I plead guilty to that too. I know I have thought to myself while taking time for some personal task while on the job that, “Hey, I deserve the time to do this given how much work I do when I am supposed to be on personal time.”

As Cindy notes:

Countless new apps and the roll-out of improved smartphones make the blending and blurring of our life roles increasingly challenging. Flexibility has become an integral part of daily life thanks to our devices.

We balance our personal demands by leaving early, arriving late, or slipping out of the office during the workday and then ironing out details of a business deal on our laptop once the dinner dishes are cleared …

Technology has transformed work into something we do, rather than only a place we go.”

I don’t know that we’re all entirely happy with this new world of work, but it is what it is.

This is what qualifies as the new normal, at least for now, and I think the name of the game is figuring out how to best leverage your workforce, and yourself, as we all adapt to being on the job all the time.

Exposing hidden bias at Google

Of course, there’s more than insights into the new way we work going on this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • One-fifth of U.S. workers were laid off in last five years. Here’s a sobering statistic, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, ” One in five U.S. workers was laid off in the past five years and about 22 percent of those who lost their jobs still haven’t found another one, according to a new survey that showed the extent Americans have struggled in the sluggish labor market since the Great Recession ended. Those who did find work had a difficult time with their job search and the effects of unemployment, the survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found.”
  • Nepotism, favoritism, and HR. Dina Hidalgo retired this week from her longtime job as head of HR for the California State Senate. Nothing odd about that, except that the description of what seas going on before she retired, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, has to be read to be believed. “Dina Hidalgo … is retiring amid allegations of nepotism and favoritism, an issue that came to light this spring when The Sacramento Bee revealed that her son, a Senate peace officer at the time, was high on marijuana and cocaine the night he was involved in a fatal off-duty shooting. A subsequent investigation by The Bee found that at least five of Hidalgo’s family members work in the Capitol, and at least three of her softball teammates got Senate jobs after playing on her team. “
  • Exposing hidden bias at Google. The New York Times this week dug into the workforce diversity issues surrounding Google, one of number of Silicon Valley companies criticized for not employing a more representative cross-section of people.  “Men make up 83 percent of Google’s engineering employees and 79 percent of its managers. In a report to the EEOC last year, Google said that of its 36 executives and top-ranking managers, just three are women. Google’s leaders say they are unhappy about the firm’s poor gender diversity, and about the severe underrepresentation of blacks and Hispanics among its work force. And so they are undertaking a long-term effort to improve these numbers, the centerpiece of which is a series of workshops aimed at making Google’s culture more accepting of diversity.”
  • Kronos Time Well Spent cartoonKronos, the company that probably makes your organization’s time-and-attendance system, publishes a regular Time Well Spent workplace cartoon by Tom Fishburne. I post them here from time to time in the Weekly Wrap.tws24-600-engagement

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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