Thought Leadership

The new normal: Speed it up

August 10, 2011
The August issue of Mother Jones magazine asks a relevant question:

 Corporate profits are better than ever. So why are you, and pretty much everyone else, having to work harder and harder, for less and less?

 Safety and health pros are responsible for more locations. Physicians cram their days to see more patients. Sales reps cover ever-expanding territories. Even us poor journalists must meet more deadlines: daily web news posts, blogs, web exclusive articles, podcasts, webinars.

 You know the deal: checking emails at a stop light. At 11 at night. Mind racing at 4 am. Only half-listening to your child for the past half-hour. Taking a laptop on your vacation. Hesitant to make social commitments, a night out with old friends, because you just don’t know how tired you’ll feel.

 You got to hand it to us: Americans are the hardest-working people in the world, in terms of economic output per hour worked. Americans now work an average of 122 more hours per year than the Brits, and 378 hours (almost ten weeks) more than the Germans. And let’s not even talk of the French and their annual month-long August sabbaticals.

 So what’s going on here?

 For one thing, longer work hours, more job stress and fatigue, more distractions all equal increased safety risks.

 For another, any number of companies off-load work on the employees who have survived rounds of layoffs.

 And then there is a cultural dimension: We’ve always had it in our blood to be a nation of strivers and achievers. To varying degrees, we stake our reputations on it. Our self-image.

 Then there is economic reality: the price of everything is more expensive than ever. You got to work, work, work to keep up; forget about getting ahead. Who is going to turn down new work assignments? In this jobless recovery we have got very little wiggle room. Not a lot of options.

 It’s the new normal, and I see nothing on the horizon to change the hard facts. Do you?

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