Quantity vs. quality in work, life

August 15th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, August 12, 2009

As the summer wanes and Labor Day looms, we would do well to take stock of our working lives. After all, on average, the working American spends 93,000 hours at work over a lifetime. And with the national unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent, those who have work are wise not only to thank their lucky stars, but also to make the most of it. Those on the sidelines are smart to be proactive and creative in setting themselves up for gainful employment.

What’s mostly lost in the unemployment statistics is that many Americans are in the midst of a reframing process when it comes to their outlook on work. Americans take the least amount of vacation time in the industrialized world. On average, we receive 14 days of vacation per year. And we don’t even take the time we have. According to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans leave 439 million vacation days unused every year (an aggregate total of 1.2 million years), and more than a third of American workers take fewer than seven vacation days a year.

According to writer Steve Rushin, “In England [where workers get 24 vacation days], leisure and pleasure rhyme. In the United States, leisure rhymes with seizure.” He cites studies that correlate taking vacations with a reduced risk of death from heart disease for men and less depression for women. Although work hours declined steadily in the industrialized world between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, men today report working 100 more hours a year than in 1976, and for women it’s 200-plus more hours. Yet a recent Salary.com survey revealed that workers admit wasting about a fifth of their time on an average day gossiping or surfing the Web.

Of course, what matters most isn’t the quantity of work but the quality of work and our productivity. One recent trend is the “results-only work environment,” which gets people out of “workaholic” mode by letting them leave the office when their work is done.

That quality of work hinges on some interesting things these days. In the past, one could rightly expect compensation, prestige and promotion to lead job seekers’ priorities. Not so today. According to a 2007 survey by consultancy BlessingWhite, 4 in 10 respondents indicated work that challenges or stimulates them is the most important factor in choosing a job, and 2 in 10 indicated they are primarily looking for work that satisfies their personal values, while only 7 percent indicated that a move “up the ladder” was their top priority. Currently, the traditional notion of a “career path” is falling by the wayside for vast swaths of the citizenry.

Today’s shrewd organizations look to brand the employment experience they offer with meaning-filled pizzazz. For example, at CLIF Bar, employees are paid to work out during the workweek and are supported by full-time trainers on staff, not to mention sabbaticals and incentives for going “green” at home and in their commute. At Ernst & Young, employees are paid to volunteer – and get to use their specialized talents and skills in the process. (read more…)

| More

Posted in Musings | No Comments »

Persevering in New Orleans

August 4th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, 7/29/09

As we approach the four-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it is tempting to assume New Orleans has recovered. The bars and restaurants of the French Quarter are bustling, riverboats filled with tourists float down the Mississippi River, and population levels are creeping closer to pre-storm levels.

That’s only half the story. If you drive into the Lower Ninth Ward, for example, signs of Katrina’s lasting impact slap you in the face. Once heralded for its exceptionally high homeownership rate and spirit of independence, this predominantly black historic community now has occupation rates of less than 25 percent. When more than 50 levees and flood walls broke, flooding more than 80 percent of the city, a wall of water swept through the Lower Ninth Ward, knocking houses off their foundations. Houses that weren’t torn apart were filled with water and left to crumble. Even today, concrete steps often lead to empty lots where houses once stood.

Yet in the wake of the hurricane springs hope. Despite losing everything in the storm, two nurses who had created a health clinic in the heart of the Lower Ninth Ward decided to provide much-needed primary care to the city’s uninsured. The two doctors who serve the clinic often see more than 25 patients a day. Another example is the Common Ground Collective, which has deployed more than 23,000 volunteers for the city’s rebuilding efforts. Efforts like these are helping the community get back on its feet slowly but surely.

This can-do spirit pervades the city… (continue reading)

| More

Posted in Social Entrepreneurship | No Comments »