Thursday, July 13, 2006

multi-generation workforce

There has always been a generation gap in the workforce and differences of opinion and outlook between the older and younger generations, but it seems that the gap is wider than ever thanks to two different occurrences. The first is that people are working longer than before, which, combinded with the number of boomers means that the older generations are much larger than they have been before. The second is the way that technology has affected the workplace, which younger workers have taken to more quickly. As technology has improved the efficiency of the workplace, there has been a steady increase in the amount of free time that could be had. While, due to its absense, the older generations seem to see this as time for even more work to get done, the younger generations see this as time to spend with family and go on vacation. The older generations perceive the younger as lazy while the younger perceive the older as lifeless (anti-family, no fun hobbies, too little vacation).

I also believe that there is a third aspect at play here, and that is job/company loyalty. While people that were hired 20-50 years ago would likely spend their entire career with that same employer, people today tend to change jobs and move around quite a bit. This is something that is also, likely, technology driven, though in this case it is the increase in speed and volume of information that has shown many more opportunity than in the past. This short term notion of working has led to employees that are not as interested in what is best for the company because the results of a better company are long-term employee benefits and they may not be around to see them.

The fact is that notions of working smarter not harder rather than keeping a nose to the grindstone are far more apt today. Hard work still has benefits (especially among blue collar work, and certain, select professional jobs) but understanding the technology and better applying it can yield more productivity in less time leaving more time for relaxation and a happier employee. Time off is not bad. It allows one to refocus and calm down. It keeps disgruntled workers from begrudging every moment at work. I feel that getting work done, rather than spending time at work should be the measure of productivity. If one can accomplish in 30 hours what someone else requires 40 to do, then that one should not feel compelled to remain at work for those 10 extra hours. (Keeping in mind that what I do is more difficult to quantify, there really is no way around working full least not right now.)

The purpose of work is to enjoy life, for those that enjoy work (and everyone should) all the better, but there is life beyond that. There are roughly 112 hours of waking time in a week, when things like showering, eating, (commuting), are taken into account that leaves around 84 hours (12/day). To spend half of that time doing something, it seems that something should be the most important thing...should it be work?

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