This is the third post in this series on working, over-connectedness and the reality that many are working long hours for free.
My first article in this series focused on statistics on work and working and the interconnection with vacation time. I then updated that, since I just read an article in Mother Jones magazine about the issues and problems of always being connected to the business life.
The trend is that people are working lots of hours. LOTS. And only some of them are compensated. We know from a wide variety of research on creativity and innovation that continually working is not conducive to high performance and it contributes to being over-stressed, generating a variety of health issues over the long term.
Overworking is actually scary stuff, all in all. And the research shows pretty clearly that some disconnection from the workplace has a variety of positive benefits.
We ARE in need of some brain-freeing vacation time away from things. An Intercall survey of American employees showed that people are simply NOT paying attention during business conference calls, for example. Their minds are either drifting off or they are trying to multitask and do other job tasks.
- 65% said they did other work at the same time as pretending to participate
- 55% that they prepared or ate food
- 47% that they went to the bathroom
- 25% that they played video games
- 27% confessed to falling asleep at least once during a call, and
- 5% said they’d had a friend POSE as themselves in order to skip it completely.
People are often just simply disengaged. You can find a more expansive article clicking on this link. The rest of this blog gets into that and other data.
This article in The Guardian starts with a simple statement:
Americans took the least amount of vacation time in almost four decades last year, forfeiting billions of dollars in compensation without scoring points with their bosses, according to an industry group analysis.
The report for the US Travel Association said the average American with paid time off used 16 of 20.9 vacation days in 2013, down from an average of 20.3 days off from 1976 to 2000. It added that 169m days of permanently forfeited US vacation time equated to $52.4bn in lost benefits.
Note that the above says, “without scoring points with their bosses.” Why? Because their bosses are doing the same thing! An Ipsos/Reuters survey in 2010 found that only 57% of Americans used all their earned vacation time.
As background and perspective, I am now well in my 31st year of running Performance Management Company. I started as a consulting business working in people and performance areas, with a shift to customer service quality and then to change management and now to themes of workplace involvement and engagement. The shift to selling materials has been a good one and the pressures of the day-to-day have shifted as I enter my 67th year of being in the business of living. I DO work a lot because it is MY business and there is actually no one else to do most of what I do.
As a small business, I will say that I am almost always thinking about business — it is impossible to get away. My business land-line forwards to my cellphone, for example. I check email regularly (like most managers). And I used to joke about spending 50% of my time marketing, 50% of my time developing materials and 50% of my time actually doing things to make money. Only the reality is that 50% + 50% + 50% is truly the small business reality… You are 100% committed to make things successful.)
(One of the very best articles ever about the issues of running a small business is Wilson Harrell’s 1987 article, Entrepreneurial Terror that appeared in Inc, Magazine.)
Here is some additional data that should be thought provoking from that Guardian article:
Wealthier workers tend to earn more vacation days but they also leave more of it unused based on the survey:
- People with an annual income of more than $150,000 failed to use an average of 6.5 vacation days in 2013.
- People with less than $29,000 did not use 3.7 days.
Employees who forfeited paid time off do not get more raises or bonuses than those who take all their vacation time. They also report higher levels of stress at work.
A Harris / Adweek poll three years ago said that 52% of Americans will work during their summer vacation. The survey showed these people will perform a variety of tasks, including:
- Reading work-related emails – 30%
- Receiving work-related phone calls – 23%
- Accessing documents on home computer – 19%
- Receiving work-related text messages – 18%
- Accessing documents on work computer – 13%
- Asked to do work by a boss, client or colleague – 13%
Clive Thompson, writing in Mother Jones magazine, shared a good information on the issue of being over-connected and why we need to unplug. View that article here.
Thompson shared data from the Center for Creative Leadership finding that 60% of smartphone-using professionals were work-connected for a full 13+ hours a day and that they spent another 5 hours playing with emails on weekends. That adds up to 72 hours a week of job-related content — but being paid for only 40 hours!
Another study by Good Technology found that 68% of people checked work email before arriving at work — before 0800 — and that 50% checked it while in bed before going to sleep! Almost 40% check email at the dinner table!
The American Psychological Association reports that one in ten check email hourly – when on vacation!
It would seem that the entrepreneurial issue of always feeling that one had to be connected is now everyone’s problem.
You can see a LOT of that explained in the reality of this scene from “Deal of The Century” (Chevy Chase) where Harold (Wallace Shawn) is waiting in his room for the phone call. (Watch it here – 4 minutes and very well done!)
Pressure. Pressure to make the sale. Pressure to complete a project. Pressure from the team. Pressure from the boss. Pressures of all kinds from working. There are lots of pressures and few ways to release them in a healthy way — taking time off from working is the best way to generate relief for your brain and body. (Another approach would be meditation, and some strongly suggest a nap during the workday.)
WITH our connectedness and other electronic support and unpaid work time, corporate productivity is up 23% since 2000. Inflation-adjusted wages and benefits are up only 4% for these same jobs. (Data from Economic Policy Institute) The pin will eventually hit the balloon on all this and we can expect to see a variety of negative impacts, like increased mental illness, stress-related diseases and some deviant workplace behavior.
And, Clive Thompson wrote, the marketing research firm Radicati Group reports that we can expect to receive 22% more business email by 2015 than we did 3 years ago. Managers get about 300 emails a day, from what I read, so when do we actually find any time to think, to innovate, to build trust in our relationships, or to even relax?
We are being multi-tasked and over-managed, we are being spread thinner and thinner, expected to know more about more things but also unable to get the training time or even understand how things work in many of our jobs.
And the research supports that reality that some play and relaxation and free time to reflect and refocus does an awful lot to rebuild motivation and morale.
PMC has designed a variety of Square Wheels illustration toolkits to help managers generate ideas for workplace change and improvement. These are designed to be fun and engaging meeting tools to help people with team-based discussion about possibilities to do things differently.
PMC also designs performance-based team building exercises to help put more play into performance improvement initiatives. Click on the icon below to see more information on our website:
Have some FUN out there! (Yeah, me, too.)
Me, on the beach, kayak camping on Lake Jocassee in the mountains of Upstate South Carolina.
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company