Saturday, April 21, 2020

News and Views: April 21st 2007

Weighing up Australian values

While this article is specifically about Australia (where there seems to be an extremely lively debate in progress about work/life balance and the demands modern management places on people), many of the points raised apply anywhere. I was especially interested to see this comment: “The obligation accepted by most employers to offer longer-term security in return for workers accepting the employer’s authority no longer form the basis of work contracts. Today’s emphasis on individual work contracts is based on the interest of employers as opposed to values reflecting a sense of reciprocal social responsibility.” Important stuff! It’s a great shame that America seems immune to such probing discussions of the nature of working life and the obligations it should impose on all sides. [link]

Measure your job status quotient

If you like slightly oddball questionnaires, here’s one that you can try. It claims to be able to measure your job’s impact on your wealth. It points out, quite reasonably, that your job helps dictate how you can live right now, and how you will be able to live in the future (based on what—and if—you can save any money from your current salary. Don’t treat this as any kind of scientific analysis, but it might just help you to think rather more deeply about your job in the context of your total finances. [link]

The perils of Retail Therapy

Here’s another thoughtful piece from Down Under. Do you spend lavishly to cheer yourself up after a miserable week at work? Do you “reward” yourself for those long hours and excessive stress by going on a shopping spree? Are you so busy at work that you have to pay people to handle most—maybe even all—of those routine household chores? Here’s an article that weighs in pretty heavily on: “working to afford to be able to work.” I can do no better than to quote one paragraph: “I now teach people how insidious the working to pay for working cycle is. The more hours you spend working, the more money is required to handle the non-working part of your life, which means you have to work more, and on it goes. It starts with the occasional take-away, but can quickly extend to every part of your life. You can’t afford the time to build those bookshelves, so you buy them. You jump in the car to go to the local shop instead of walking because you don’t want to waste that half-hour walking. You get depressed at your lifestyle and you compensate by buying something you don’t need and can’t really afford.” [link]

Sick of your job . . . or sick because of it?

Here’s yet another scary and depressing survey from Great Britain: “The latest 24-7 survey—a research project conducted by the Work Life Balance Center and the universities of Keele, Coventry and Wolverhampton—found that two thirds of employees have been made ill by work, with 48% of these suffering from depression, and 43% suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.” Maybe it’s the dreadful weather there. Maybe UK universities are more ready to delve into workplace problems that universities in other parts of the world. Whatever the reason, it does seem that much of the bad news about the workplace is coming from Europe at present. Is everything so sunny in the USA? Or are people here just conditioned to keep quiet? [link]

Jack Welch on work/life balance

If you want a viewpoint from probably the ultimate guru of Hamburger Management, here’s Jack Welch on work/life balance: “The problem with that word is 'balance.' The word is choices, and you make them. You in the end make choices, and you live with them. Its not a company’s job to make your choice or to make the choice easy for you. I respect all the choices you make, but no company is working to make your balance; they’re dealing with your choices. If firms can’t attract people with intrinsic value and pay packages, then they have other problems.” Hmm. I translate that as: “I don’t care about your life—never did—but I do care about making money. If you get in the way of that, ‘dealing with your choices’ is going to include firing you.” It’s a bit like asking the Pope to recommend a really hot, sexy night club. [link]

One cross Englishman

More from across the pond, this time a lengthy rant against the whole idea of people feeling that they ought to be happy. Most of the article is a book review, but I noticed this broadside against those who promote the idea of work/life balance: “Unfortunately government has caught a bad dose of ‘happy clapping’ and ministers have latched onto the idea that we should try to engineer this happiness. You see it in the work-life balance debate (read work=unhappy, life=happy). You also see it within organizations, as hapless HR people try to take control of the emotional welfare of employees. Self-appointed armies of coaches, counsellors, mentors and therapists are crawling all over organizations searching for the pathological. Everyday emotions and ordinary contention are diagnosed as illnesses and people with creepy ‘open questioning’ techniques come in to offer cures.” The author claims he wants to stir people up. I suspect he had a bad experience with someone from HR in his past. [link]

Are you being scheduled to death?

It's amazing how many people—including senior executives—accept having little or no control over their working days. Their time is almost entirely taken up with activities scheduled for them by other people. Why do they do it? Is it just bravado? THis article doesn't come up with any answers, but it surely recognizes the problem and points to some ways out of the mess. [link]

Working kills people

Hell, so does eating, drinking, having sex, and just being alive. Still, those are all more exciting and pleasant ways to do it. Here’s yet more scary research from Great Britain on this topic: “Research from the UK Work Foundation found that the main cause of the 2.6 million people on long term sickness and incapacity benefit is workplace stress, costing the tax payer billions of pounds every year. Our current command and control organizational model is literally killing people. Recent research by McKinsey & Company indicates that “half or more of a company’s spending on labor may be devoted to basic interaction activities, many of them internal to the organization”. Again corroborated by other UK Work Foundation research finding that non-productive interactions in many organizations exceed 60%.” Maybe new approaches to work can give an answer. But then again, maybe not. [link]

Be a stringent gatekeeper of your time.

Here’s a great piece by someone who has suddenly woken up to the way that we allow our time to be nibbled away by every type of unproductive and wasteful activity— especially if we spend large parts of the day in from of a computer. Here are two points I like particularly: “Stop trying to accommodate a global work schedule. Again, unless it’s really mandatory or unavoidable, I work during my work hours, not those in other parts of the world;” and “Make ‘no’ the default answer for new project/app review/etc. requests. New things should earn their way into the attention field.” [link] [via]

Use money to buy time?

Penelope Trunk has an interesting, contrarian article about the relationship between time and money. We all know the old saw: “Time is money.” She suggests this is so only because we “buy” money with our time. As she points out: “Time is more important than money. You think that you know this, but you probably don’t act on it as much as you could. If you spend your time buying material things then you are using up the one thing that can make you happy (time) on things that definitely don’t make you happy (stuff).” All the excessive time in the workplace can indeed lead lead to an impressive salary. But time is a very finite resource. If you use most of it to get money, what will be left? Many rich people no longer have the time to enjoy their wealth, which seems to render the whole process futile. [link]

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