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Working around the Clock No Longer Just for the Self-Employed

February 26, 2010

For many, many years hopeful but nervous entrepreneurs perceived excessive working hours as one major downside of running their own business – the long hours it takes to get a business up and running. This perception goes hand and hand with beliefs that

· The boss never really gets to go on vacation

· The boss takes his/her work everywhere

· The boss has to be thinking about his business 24/7

· The boss is the one person who can’t call in sick, take a snow day, or go home early.

For all generations before this decade, the upside of having to report to a manager and be told what to do and when to do it was being able to leave work at the end of the day, confident that you had earned your pay for hours worked. Most employees were not required to worry about their jobs once they left for home.


In the new age of constant connectivity this is no longer a truism. In fact, it has become much harder for many employees to disconnect from work during off hours. This is primarily due to two critical drivers in today’s economy:

1) High unemployment and the corresponding lack of jobs make everyone skittish about holding onto the jobs they have. There are at least six people looking for work for every available job opening today (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).  Employees in periods of high unemployment are extremely vulnerable. Many of those who are still gainfully employed are threatened with possible layoffs in the near future. Even government employees, who used to be able to bank on virtually ‘lifetime’ employment, are at high risk from the impact on government budgets by the revenue declines of the Great Recession.

2) In today’s world of digital connectivity, we are all expected to be plugged in, if not every minute of every day, at least once a day to answer emails, reply to blog comments for those of us writing online, check voice mail, text messages, our Facebook wall, LinkedIn updates, etc.  You get the picture.

These two facts have made it more demanding to be an employee than to be your own boss, a situation true today that was never before the case, except for extremely highly placed executives. In his recent Generation B column (New York Times Sunday Styles Section, January 14, 2010) Michael Winerip wrote a telling article about the changes he and his adult family members have made in their annual family vacation habits. His piece articulates the crux of this situation extremely well so I will not try to paraphrase his article but encourage you to take a few minutes to read it.

But I will use this excerpt from Winerip’s article as Today’s Quote:

“As we talked, it was clear that while we all felt lucky to still have jobs, there wasn’t one of us whose business hadn’t been seriously wounded by this not-so Great Recession.

And yet, even as business has slowed, we have been speeded up…” ~ Michael Winerip, Generation B


In essence, here is the new formula for work in America:

Great Recession = Layoffs

Layoffs = Increase demand for Productivity from Remaining Employees =

More time spent working and less time off for the same or less salary


Which brings us back to the initial point of this post. The path to entrepreneurship has equalized by the increasing hurdles to life as a salaries employee. Once upon a time the additional working hours to build your own company was a significant change in lifestyle from remaining under the protective wing of corporate America. This is no longer the case – in fact you could argue that as an independent business person, you have more control over your time than a corporate employee, who no longer has the luxury of working a 9-5 job or a 40 hour work week.

How would you describe the changes in your own working life since the beginning of the 21st century?

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