College Central®

Ask around. The Network works.®

Balancing work and play

Evan Harvey -- They work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. They wedge army cots into their office cubes to catch some spare shut-eye. They haven't seen their loved ones since the Carter administration. Who are these people?

The mega-workers, the ones who never quit, the bread and butter of the new economy. What is their secret? Well, for one thing, they don't really exist.

But today's workplace is not a utopian wonderland. Most of us feel like we're behind the curve, constantly juggling work and family demands. A recent CareerBuilder online survey, Balancing Work and Life, was designed to measure the multiple demands placed on modern workers. Are people really spending more time on the job than at home? Has the typical workplace evolved into a more pleasant and inviting environment? Has the rapid rise in technology simplified or complicated our lives? The answers may surprise you.

Work vs. Family

Nearly 46 percent of all survey respondents considered themselves working parents, and most of them said they understand the balance between work and family life. While only half could actually discuss in detail how to achieve such balance, at least 37 percent said they could do so. A majority of those surveyed admitted the obvious: It is difficult to be both professionally successful and highly involved in relationships with their children or family. But only 22 percent believe that it is extremely difficult to do both; 38 percent would only say that this is somewhat difficult.

Flexibility, especially as it relates to working hours, is the most popular family-friendly perk that people would like to see implemented in the office. This includes the ability to work from home (74 percent), take time off for family-related issues (69 percent), and work on a flex-time basis (63 percent).

Work-time flexibility is the most common adjustment made by employees to better balance work and family life. More than 49 percent of all respondents deliberately sought out a flexible work environment; 43 percent scheduled special days to spend with family and friends; and 43 percent reported deliberately taking personal days.

Nearly half of all the working non-parents surveyed believe that they work the same number of hours as working parents. One out of three actually work more than parents, while 23 percent believe that they work fewer hours.

Workplace Environment

Nearly two-thirds of all respondents report experiencing some level of stress at work. Half are somewhat stressed and 13 percent feel extremely stressed at work. Only 9 percent feel no stress at all. Too much work and too little time are the two most common causes of this stress (38 percent and 59 percent, respectively). Fatigue is the most frequently mentioned (67 percent) by-product of work-related stress.

Impatience (48 percent) and moodiness (47 percent) are not far behind.

To find some relief, many people turn to their boss. The supportiveness of a supervisor improves their attitude or outlook at work. Nearly 61 percent rated this factor as extremely important. Another 26 percent rated the supportiveness of their boss as "somewhat" important. And, when choosing a workplace, a large number of individuals (87 percent) purposely sought out an employer that is supportive and understanding of their personal or family needs. Four percent preferred employers who are strict about attending to family matters--and 9 percent actually liked employers who are blissfully unaware of any family needs.

Schedule flexibility is now considered a right rather than a privilege. The CareerBuilder survey found that 4 out of 5 respondents expect some flexibility from their employer when arranging daily work schedules. Over 29 percent would like to set their own hours, while 52 percent would like the ability to at least negotiate convenient hours.

There is certainly a growing community of workers out there, connected via a loose, informal network. Most people find their career advice or feedback through friends, acquaintances, and co-workers (79 percent). More than half of the survey respondents rely on books, articles, or the Internet for the same information.

Technology, the Internet, and Work

The increased use of technological mobile devices (such as cell phones, Palm Pilots, and wireless Internet outlets) hasn't really made a significant impact on the amount of time that employees spend in the office. Almost 77 percent spend about the same amount of time in their office, 16 percent are spending less time in their office, and 7 percent are even spending more time at work.

Similarly, e-mail hasn't substantially impacted the amount of time that survey respondents spend at the office. More than 70 percent report no change in the number of hours they work during an average week, 19 percent have seen the hours of their workweek increase. Only12 percent have seen their workload decrease. More individuals actually use e-mail for personal purposes than for business purposes. Almost 79 percent send or receive personal e-mails at least once a day, while only 53 percent do so for business purposes on a daily basis.

Most respondents use the Internet during work hours to obtain business-related information (76 percent) or to look up information on people, locations, or other businesses (62 percent). But a large proportion of individuals also use it to shop (44 percent), look for another job (41 percent), or make restaurant or airline reservations (35 percent) during normal business hours. Shocking.

Finally, many of these respondents expect to change jobs in the next year. Nearly 44 percent predict a change, 40 percent may remain in their current job, and the remaining 16 percent are just unsure. Among those who do expect to change jobs in the next year, 49 percent will make that change within six months. This is clearly a new mindset, because 68 percent of all survey respondents did not change jobs within the year prior.

Respondent Profile

There can be little doubt that this survey adequately captured a cross-section of American jobseekers. Nearly 55 percent of those who completed the survey are women--as is the present workforce--and 60 percent are 35 years of age or younger. The data doesn't seem to be slanted toward harried working parents, either. More than 48 percent of these respondents do not have children, 23 percent have one child, and 18 percent have two children. Participants are employed in a variety of fields, including technology (14 percent), healthcare (11 percent), and sales (9 percent). Almost 8 percent are self-employed. Geographically speaking, all 50 states and the District of Columbia were represented, with the largest numbers of respondents located in California (10 percent), Texas (9 percent), and New York (7 percent).

Evan Harvey is the managing editor of CareerBuilder. His work has been featured in Staffing Success and elsewhere.

(c) 2002

Return to top

The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.