This past long holiday weekend, I couldn’t help but contemplate the state of workplace America, especially as I strolled the beach, smartphone in one hand, sunscreen in the other, and visions of the next great volleyball match dancing in my head.
Independence Day fell on a Thursday this year, close enough to the weekend to make Friday practically a holiday as well for many.
Did you go into work? Did you conduct business on Friday?
Some did. Many did not, treating themselves to a 4-day holiday weekend.
Twenty years ago, I don’t remember ever having 4-day holiday weekends in the summer, winter, or any time for that matter! But of course, the workplace was much different then. We were nowhere near as well connected technologically, and let’s face it the nature of the workplace was quite different as well, with bosses and employees enjoying more of a parent/child or teacher/student kind of relationship.
How things have changed.
Teams and teamwork are more the norm, rather than traditional top-down hierarchies and dictatorial styles of leadership. Many people telecommute by phone or online, working from home or wherever they happen to be able to plug in.
Like any change, there are pros and cons, tradeoffs and adjustments. As for me, I’m happy to be able to do a little business and do a little R&R virtually at the same time when and where it makes the most sense to do so.
Following is a blog I wrote about two years ago on the topic. As you read it, consider how your workplace setting has changed in the last 10 or 20 years. Has it changed for the better?
Share your thoughts here . . . others want to know!
The Changing World of Work
(Originally posted on July 12, 2011 by Paul June)
I wager that few of your high school teachers or college professors—and certainly not your Mom or Dad—told you years ago that your work day could be conducted poolside or reclining on the beach with friends and family nearby playing volleyball, grilling steaks or veggie burgers, and sipping a few cold ones. Yet nowadays, especially among entrepreneurs, solo professionals, and small business owners, it seems non-traditional work settings are becoming more the norm rather than the exception to the rule.
Of course, this doesn’t mean people are working less, or not as hard as their counterparts of 15, 20, or 30 years back. Quite the contrary. As always, success—especially sustaining it—takes determination, hard work, and sacrifice. I just think people are working smarter these days—tending to “business” when it needs tending to (no matter where or when they are) rather than trying to squeeze it all into a stereotypical “Monday through Friday, 9 to 5” model (not that many every actually adhered to an eight hour workday, or 40 hour workweek).
For many, the traditional workweek grind, complete with “coat and tie” or “power suit” is gone . . . and I say good riddance. Why? Because it’s virtually impossible to turn off your personal life once the workday hits. Your responsibilities to friends and family, attention to your health, household chores, school issues, or the simple need for some personal time, don’t suddenly evaporate just because the morning alarm clock sounds, to be put off until later that evening or the coming weekend. Similarly, your professional pursuits don’t always follow and orderly path, kicking in on Mondays and resolving neatly come Friday night at closing time.
The fact is, for most, juggling at-work issues with home front responsibilities are the toughest and most stressful parts of their lives. But nowadays with smart phones, tablets, laptops, 3G/4G networks, and an abundance of wireless hotspots, “business” can take place virtually anywhere you can get to electricity, a phone, and/or an Internet connection. Weekday or weekend, daytime or night, you can be productive at home, on a train or bus, in the office, or even at your favorite getaway.
Of course, some will say being so connected is bad, that it hardly represents an improvement of yesteryear’s work environments. On the one hand, I agree. Everyone needs to unplug at times. That’s where discipline comes in, and it’s not always easy for us monkeys to walk away from our shiny electronic gadgets. But would you rather be able to slip into your home office for an hour or two on a Wednesday night to wrap up a project, or would you prefer to burn the midnight candle away from home at the office? I knowmy answer.
We have the ability at any time (and most times when the time is right and our creative juices are flowing) to conduct business when it needs to be done, and when we can be our most productive—whether it’s reviewing a report on a Saturday morning with a steaming cup of coffee; drawing up a proposal on a Tuesday night after the ball game’s over and the family’s gone to bed; or reviewing the latest metrics on a client’s social media campaign via conference call come Monday morning.
The fact is “life” doesn’t unfold according to a calendar. It happens when it happens. Work is part of life, and for many a big part of life. The more we integrate what we do professionally with what we do personally, especially with the global nature of the economy these days, the more successful we can be on both fronts: happy at home and happy (and productive) on the job. More and more, for enterprising entrepreneurs, solo professionals, and small business owners, work life and personal life are merging—there’s just “life” and how we choose to live it.
What with online interactive meetings, chat rooms, teleconference lines, and all sorts of creative ways to get together, communicate, share ideas and documents, and make decisions—there’s no reason that the number of people telecommuting (working from home and going to work virtually) won’t continue to trend upward.
Of course, there will always be a need to connect in-person (I like to call it “shaking hands and kissing babies”) with colleagues and customers, and some jobs simply require a physical presence. There’s no replacing that. But compare where you are today with the “world of work” of your parents . . . or even to what you were doing 10 years back. WOW! It makes me wonder where we’ll be in another decade.