This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

May 2, 2000

Work-Life: Sharp Line or Fuzzy?

243 days until January 1, 2001

The "buzz" today emphasizes the importance of balance between work life and personal life. The message clearly separates the two aspects and suggests they should remain separate and distinct. Or is that really the message?

This work-life issue is confusing, fuzzy, and bewildering. Workers aren't sure what they want or what to do. Employers are equally baffled.

On one hand, there is a belief that work and personal lives should be totally disconnected. When people leave work, they should enter a life experience that is apart from work. When they return to work, their personal lives should be left at home. The talk about balance says people should not work late, should not work on their days-off, and should not take work home.

On the other hand, there is so much to do at work. All those tasks must get done, no matter how long it takes. It's essential to take care of the customers-or clients-no matter what time investment is required. They pay our salaries. Sound familiar? The labor shortage means we don't have enough people to get the work done "normally," so we all have to pitch in. We'd hire more people if we could, but we just can't find enough qualified applicants.

Then the guilt sets in . . . or is it some sort of strategy to keep people working and make work attractive as sort of an extension of personal life? Flex-time helps workers blend work and personal time demands. Concierge services relieve the personal errand strain. Now employers are offering on-line shopping to workers, using work or home computers. Proponents say the opportunity to shop on-line (perhaps with company-sponsored discounts), refinance your mortgage from your desk, buy flowers or clothes or groceries, and even do your banking from work actually increases productivity. The time savings alone, not considering the stress and the distraction, suggest that doing personal things at work makes sense.

This mixing of work and personal-on the job and at home-blurs the fine line between the two lives. This issue will be confusing for a while, maybe years.

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