The changing face of the work-life balance

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Two weeks ago, I posted about a Gallup survey that asked workers whether or not their jobs are ideal. One trend that emerged from the survey highlighted young workers and their dissatisfaction with their jobs. Dissatisfaction might be misleading, but the young workers are less likely than their older colleagues to consider their jobs ideal. The connection to low pay is a likely factor, but another issue could factor into the equation, too.

Yet a story that ran on NPR yesterday brings up another point: Young workers are concerned about work-life balance. The story explains that work-life balance is nothing new, but employers have historically associated the issue with working parents, not young newcomers.

You may have heard that millennials in the workplace are lazy and feel “entitled,” but sociologist Phyllis Moen says that’s a bad rap. She says young workers simply don’t want to wait decades until retirement for their quality of life — an attitude that has been reinforced by the recession, as they’ve seen parents and boomer relatives lose their jobs.

The story went on to explain that work-life balance is not just the concern of working parents or millennials. Every age group wants to find personal time away from their busy professional lives. Just last week we mentioned the e-leash and how it’s restraining workers on a daily basis. As the article points out, the younger generation of workers is comfortable with gadgetry and views technology as a tool that enables them to work away from the office or on their own clock. Not everyone, including your boss, agrees, but this view is a reality of today’s workplace. In many professions, being at a cubicle is irrelevant to getting work done and workers wonder why they don’t have a little more flexibility.

Employers might think they offer an adequate amount of flexibility, while workers see it differently.

[Research] also shows that employees don’t find their workplaces nearly as flexible as managers report. Work-family experts say arrangements often appear more generous on paper than in practice and can be highly dependent on the generosity of immediate supervisors.

If work-life balance matters to you, keep the following tips in mind when looking for a job or considering a discussion with your boss:

-Can my job be performed from home?
-Would a flexible schedule (working earlier and leaving earlier or working later and leaving later) affect your job or your colleagues negatively?
-What work-life issues aren’t you willing to compromise on?
-Does your employer (or future employer) stress the importance of a work-life balance or does its values clash with your needs?
-How do you define work-life balance for yourself?

Balancing your personal and professional lives isn’t easy, and you could find yourself frustrated with your situation if you don’t understand what’s important to you. If you’re interviewing for a job or want to discuss new arrangements with your boss, walk into the meeting room knowing what you want. 

53 Comments
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  5. Yes most of young people now have a lot of dissatisfaction in their life. Maybe because they are young and used to be spoiled.

    Why work hard, if you can work smart – is their favourite quote. It’s not like i’m old or something :p But I do agree with them at some point. Internet have been change all life of people where they could get easy quick buck if know how to do it.

    Time change, people do change, especially the way they are making money.

    Just IMHO.

  6. Who chares if you can work at home if your job forces you to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year just to keep up on a daily basis.

    The company owns you and you can’t quit because you can’t get another job that pays the same amount.

    Basically your stuck in the twilight zone.

  7. Really, people don’t matter. Do the job or find another. Don’t do the job and they will find someone new. Most companies are not that willing to allow tele-commuting; they like to have their people in an office setting as much as possible. If you like your job, you may be strapped to double-duty responsibilities, commuting, ignoring the fact that you have a personal life, paying for your own travel with your own credit to await reimbursements (sometimes 4 months) from the company you work for *plus* being separated from your family entirely. Don’t expect raises, vacations, many weekends off where Saturday is a day off; and don’t expect any really great benefits. It’s not dissatisfaction if at least you have a job and like the people you interact with; many don’t have the opportunity to find suitable work at all. If you have a job, be thankful. If it’s not ideal, maybe that’s why it is called work instead of play.

  8. No job is worth missing out on time with your kids. I’ve been with the same company for several years, last week for the first time I requested a bit of flexibility b/c of my son’s school issues and you’d have thought I was trying to start WW3. Other people in my office get to leave for stupid reasons like hair appts, etc, but god forbid should I be more available for my kid, what a sin!! :(

  9. Employees or would-be employees may have to take into consideration the following.

    Firstly, employers need to measure job dissatisfaction in order for them to do something about it. It will also show employees to what extent they are dissatisfied with their jobs.

    Secondly, on the issue of work-life balance, employers may see the need to implement a proper framework if they allow employees to work from home or go for flexible work hours.

    It is not possible to perform every kind of jobs from home. It also carries with it other problems such as whether employees are putting in the required amount of work, work quality, little or no opportunity for face-to-face consultation with superiors to resolve any problem, and so on.

    Another issue to address is whether such work arrangement will affect the morale of other employees who are working at company’s premises.

    Yet another matter that requires looking into is the salary level.

  10. I’m still trying to figure out where a 40 hour work week came from and why it’s presumed to be so standard? I’d love to make less and work less. But, in a professional world, unless you go the semi-scary route of being self employed, you’re stuck in a 40 hour, or more, work week. It’s depressing to spend the majority of every day in a cube, fluorescent lights and no privacy, in order to spend scant time each evening with your loved ones. Not to mention, I usually end up having so many things that need doing during the week that my weekends are taken up by finishing those personal work chores during my so-called “time off.” I personally feel like we are stuck in the capitalistic cycle, where rather than enjoying our time, we put in our time at work to make more money than we need to buy more stuff that we don’t need (but society tells us we do), in order to feel socially “successful” and “fulfilled.” We buy bigger houses than we need, fancier cars, nicer clothes, all to fulfill some societal ideal that has no meaning on most of our lives, if we’re honest with ourselves. Unfortunately, if you don’t buy into the capitalist-consumer society, you have to work really hard to find a different way. I’m still searching for one.

  11. Or you can be like my company. Talk a great game about work life balance before taking the job, and then once you get the job, let reality set in. Employees no longer value workers. especially in a down-turn. If a company is hiriing, they’ll have 10,000 applicants for a position. They’ll be the first to dump you if you cost too much. They’ll keep you stuck in your position for life, and dangle fruit in front of your face to get you to work harder.

    Ask a young person why they are dis-satisfied, and I would be the answer has everything to do with being used. I love hard work and I don’t shy away from it, but when you’re being flat out used by an employer, it doesn’t inspire happy feelings. Especially when you were deceived into thinking the job was something completely different.

  12. I think one thing that most people are missing is that a lot of the younger working force has more than one job. I know personally, that if I only had to go to my day job and could have my evening to spend with my loved ones, to exercise, to make healthy meals, to plant a garden…I would be much much happier. But because of my bills, I can’t afford to not have a second job on the evenings and weekend. I ‘m burning the candle at both ends just to make ends meet, with little or no time for me and my loved ones. I live with my fiance but I hardly ever see him due to our work schedules. (He also has two jobs).
    So to categorize all “young people” as lazy, just isn’t fair. Some of us are just plain burnt out from waking up, going to work, having a half hour break, going back to work, going to bed, waking up and starting the whole cycle over again, day in and day out.

  13. Minimum wage should be indexed to a basket of goods and services such that a person working a full-time (see below) job at minimum wage can manage the basic expenses of life.

    BUT ~ Let’s consider whether or not it is time to re-define the workweek. The 40 hour 5-day workweek is soooo last century. We can’t employ everyone that wants a job. We need to go to the 32-hour 4-day workweek. Change overtime laws to 2X after 32 and 3X after 40. These overtime premiums should be meant to encourage hiring more workers not over-working fewer workers.

  14. I totally agree with you Dandy. My child is the most important to me, over work, over friends, over everything. I will do whatever I can to make sure I am there for him.
    Luckily, the corporation I work for is pretty family friendly, so I am able to take off if I need to for him.
    I feel bad that you aren’t in the same situation.

  15. I think it’s silly for employers not to consider flex schedules, changing the work week to four 10-hour days or permitting telecommuting. As a cartoon in a recent magazine depicted, unless one is a miner in a coal mine (or construction worker or similar “need to be present” jobs), working from home should be an option. Seems to me it could cut down on overhead and could be used, instead of a salary raise (in a tough economy), to reward one’s best workers. It’s all about testing the idea with reliable people, then proper planning and scheduling.

  16. Erin has it right. We are told we need to work harder to make more money to buy things we don’t need. I can’t believe how many people believe this. I am a stay at home mom who bit the bullet and quit my job so I could raise my kids (now 12 and 16). I live in an affluent community (for the schools) and am constantly snubbed by working moms because I don’t have a designer wardrobe, fancy car and don’t eat out every night. These same moms also give me a hard time because they “can’t afford to stay home.” I want to scream at them, “Yes, you can! Just stop buying 10 pairs of shoes a month and every new gadget that comes down the pike!” The irony is that their kids don’t appreciate anything their parents buy them after all this hard work.

  17. I teach at a university and the issue of “hours at work” is very complex considering that our hours of “contact” with students — classes & perhaps office hours — are the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we must do. Yet we have these ridiculous HR forms that have to be filled out with hourly work reported, the same as the office staff. Very antiquated and completely fictitious. I haven’t filled mine out for years. I let me dept. director do it for me and he cooks the numbers to work to his and the dept’s advantage. MOST of my work happens away from the office. The same is true for the students. It’s a new world. Academia is VERY slow to change.

  18. Try being a single mom…or even better, a single mom with cancer, still having to work those 40 hour weeks because you need that health insurance and paycheck to support your family. And you get to use the vacation time you’ve worked so hard to accumilate for such “fun” stuff as chemo and radiation treatments! I’d trade places with you…

  19. The trouble is that people in Amerika think they are God’s gift to the work place and NOBODY can replace them. HU, i got news for you, you better wake up and stop coming in late on Mondays and doze off during the week infront of your comptuer from partying.

  20. The problem comes from Companies getting used to a certian level of work & the fact that most bosses are still men. The same thing happened to me. I have a high paying professional job that I’ve worked hard at for 15 years. I work through my lunches, don’t talk on the phone to friends, don’t play on Facebook, etc. I never take long vacations, just extended weekends. I miss seeing my child’s plays live, instead I have them video taped and watch them at home. I get praises and many pats on the back for excellence BUT recently my daughter got really sick, the next week I was sick then my elderly Mother became sick so I was out roughly 2 full weeks from work. You’d think my bosses would be understanding when I asked for a couple extra days to take care of my mother, but no, their comment was “The company can not be responsible for the health of an employees family members.” All that matters in this world is the bottom line. Nothing else.

  21. I’ve been working for 47 years, with no end in sight. Nobody can live on Social Security. Many of my cohorts are retiring – from government, military, public education….these careers acknowledge that 30 years entitles you to retire. I feel that people should be entitled to draw Social Security after 30 years of working – and contributing to the fund. Talk about spending time with your kids — I’d like to be able to rest, relax, and play with my GRANDkids!!! I feel I have worked long enough. The last couple of employers I’ve had work you to death, pay you little, and don’t give a damn about you as a human being.

  22. I have to agree with Erin 100%. It’s all a big rat race. All anyone ever does is concentrate on bigger and better in every aspect of life without taking time to relax. I hate the 40 hour/week concept yet i find myself caught up in it — bills (which are not even excessive for me), kids, retirement, etc etc.

  23. If you think running your own business means more time off , boy are you wrong! I work for my husband who has his own business, and I work a 20 hour part time job at school, and I am one of the busiest & luckiest people ever. I got to stay home most of the time with my kids when they were young. The business was still young and needed a lot of attention, My husband did his work thing during the day, I got to do the mommy thing most of the day and at night I did office work for the business. When the kids got bigger they liked going to “work ” with dad, and when they were in school full time, I worked around special things at school, with my hours for my husbands work and juggled what he could to attend special events at school, and we work with our employees so they can also do thier special school things for thier kids. Thank goodness most things are in the evening, graduations, shows, games. It was not easy, it seemed for awhile there we fell out of touch with friends (most were doing the kid, work thing too) and having a conversation that wasn’t about the kids or business was almost unheard of but it worked. Don’t feel bad for my kids, they still work with dad around thier high school & college classes, and my oldest works another job on the weekends to offset his summer vacation travel. The thing is I chose my job, I do things I love and it’s easier to face the day when you do what you want, what you love, what (for the most part) makes you happy. I wish you could all do what you enjoy, even when its tough, its still good.

  24. My employer just told my boss she has to work 7 days a week and is not allowed to ever take one of her legally-provided vacation days. She is also expected to be on call for 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    And this is why young people want a work-life balance. Some employers think work IS life.

  25. IF you work a 40 hour week now, and earn Xamount, why would working a 32 hour week for less than xamount be better? I dont know where you live but in the new york area that wouldn’t cover my basic living expences.

  26. I am always fascinated by how much employers are always touting that they are on the ‘cutting edge’ or use ‘high technology’ but when it comes to their atttitudes towards employees they are still in the 18th century! Yes, I firmly believe its not important how many hours you must put in but if you get the job done on time. Less important is the amount of time you sit at your cubicle and look busy just to put in your required overtime.
    Between the price of gas and the shape of the enviroment telecommuting is the future and a reality. Corporate America and bosses need to get with the program.

  27. The other problem comes when you are allowed to telecommute and then your career is held back because of it. I was moved to another job with greater responsibility and there was no change in pay because they let me work from home. When I brought up a promotion I was laughed at. They agreed to the arrangement and then are punishing me for it. Also my company measures satisfaction and then spins the results and ignores them when they don’t like them. The problem is that companies have employees over a barrel with the recession. Employees are not as in need and thus are paid accordingly. This is not to say that many employees want to work lazy hours and not have any repurcussions. I am only talking about those that have no problem with hard work and expect to put in long hours proving themselves.

  28. reducing the workweek to 30 hours so that more people would have jobs is an excellent idea, but what about health insurance, many co. only offer to those working a min. of 35 hours. it will cost the employer more in benefits if they hire more. the other thing is what if you have a lower paying job and have to work a 40 hr. workweek just to get a decent wage. most offiice work jobs don’t pay well, salaries are down to pre 1990 levels. I personally have never held a job were I worked the full 8 hours tho I have gotten in trouble for not finding work to do but there’s nothing worse than some non-essential task just to look busy. i’ve been out of work 18 months dont know what will happen am not looking forwards to working a 5 day 40 hr. week after being free for so long
    I’d rather work a high paying p/t job any day but yes the 40 hour workweek is outmoded, with cell phones business calls can happen outside the office and most co. have automated lines answering calls with pre-recorded answers so not like people have to be their because no-one answers the phones anyhow.

  29. Hate to burst bubbles here but in the great USA we exist in a capitalist/litigiest(sp?) society rather than Utopia. Value/merit/output does NOT equal compensation.The 80/20 theory suggests that 20% of the workforce accomplishes 80% of the production. The inverse dynamic is that these producers are compensated at the 20/80 ratio. Economics 101 reminds us of the “Reserve Army of the Unemployed” —- Helllooooooo Pakistan! We exist in many Southeastern states within the concept of the “Right-To-Work”. Wake up and smell the sewage…….YOU ARE REPLACABLE….there is no Corporate loyalty…..your (internet)) Degree is worthless in two years. Marry the ugly daughter or the nerd son of the owner and hope to God that the business is not a Ponzi scheme.
    Next ? Hmmm!…you are a successful athlete (think swimming)…..and then some moron takes a picture of you celebrating and your career is ruined.
    Next ? 40 hr work week ! Who’s the spoiled brat? Do you want some cheese with that whine? Your great-grandfather worked 80 hours a week in a factory or a coal mine or a farm, to make $25. to support three generations of your family just to listen to you whine. Did your pathetic self achieve a 2.5 gpa in high school? Doubt it!
    Next Q? Workers work! During my 20′s-30′s I worked 2 and 3 jobs while earning a BS Degree. I did not take any job from any person. If there was another person that could perform my job equally and CHEAPER I would not have had that job!

    PS .I apologize…..I am not a Blogger I actually have a life.

    P.P.S. Please do not vent… I may never revisit this site!

  30. Who is asking me to moderate my thought or “speech”. Call me naive…but I thought that an open forum IS an open forum. Silly me…..I live in America ….Apparently I don’t have the freedoms that a thought I served in the US Military to protect.

  31. Every time I hear “family friendly” as a single person here’s what it actually means. Because I have no kids or family…my personal time is less valuable than those who do have children. This means I am many times required to do the work of the people with children for no more pay or extra time away from work. Why should a single person be punished for not having children…while those that do are the ones who get he benefit of having a personal life?

    When employers will finally get a clue that my personal life is as important as those who have children and push their work back onto them…things will change for the better. Employees using their children as excuses to be slackers needs to change.

  32. where do you people come from?????cryin about a 40hr work week and the fact you actually have to show up at your job. or maybe the fact that your missing out on family time. I bet if your workplace cut your hours you would cry about how you can’t pay your bills

  33. I think it’s unfair to categorize all young workers as lazy. Some are lazy, yes but not all. I would love to work for a company that allowed me to spend time taking care of me and my family. I have no problem putting in my time and paying my dues but I don’t think sitting at a cubicle 9-10 hrs a day means I’m working hard, putting in time, or paying any dues. These days there are many different views of productivity & I hope to end up @ a company that understands that their employees are people instead of cogs in a huge machine.

  34. Employers try to paint a rosie picture and sell thier company to employees. then you get there and the expectations change, the benefits and bonuses dont really exist, salaries were cut, as were the staff. the duties were divvied up and now I do the work of 2 people, work 70-80 hours a week for less pay and the reality is that there IS nowhere else to go. All of my peers and friends are in the same situation. My parents generation has no idea what is like to work in todays force. We are hardly spoiled! Our employers own us 24/7/365, there is no loyalty or job security. My employer gives me 3 weeks of vaca on paper, but makes it impossible for me to actually use it…My dad made more money before he retired 10 years ago than I do now. His mortgage was $120/mo. Mine is $1200 for a smaller home. Add in utilities and general cost of living… he cant understand why I am always saying im broke, stressed, and exhausted!

  35. What will it take for people to wake up and quit contributing to the corruption of our society? Large corporations are only worried about making board members large profits. The greed that drives these people is psychotic. Young people are much more socially aware than generations past. Like the article says, they’ve watched their parents work like slaves all their lives and will have nothing to show for it. Why not learn to live on less and enjoy life more for what its meant to be and not be worried about being a consumer. Society as we know it is in for a big change. Our way of life is not a sustainable one.

  36. Young people have an unrealistic ideal of the work environment. I’ve worked all my adult life w/out a break & consider myself lucky to have been employed thru all the downturns from the 80′s forward. After thinking that I live to work rather than work to live & feeling down & out about it, I read something from a daily devotional that changed my perspective. It stated that work benefits the mind, body, emotions & soul as well as the wallet of humans. In other words, God made us with a need to work & satisfation with a job well-done brings a certain satisfaction (from God) that’s no mistake. Yes, I’ve hated my work life for more years than I care to remember, but also…..I’d hate to see the slothful person I’d be without it. If you’re THAT unhappy, do something to change your situation, i.e. more education, new job, new city, the choices are endless.

  37. annette, you hit the nail on the head – employers don’t want employees to work in other than an office setting because if you’re good, and you can complete your allotted work accurately in less time than the majority with less ability who need the full 40 hours to do the work, then they can dump more work on you

  38. You said it, D! And, it’s not just being taking advantage of in terms of vacation approvals,workload assignments, etc. On a per-person basis, health insurance is cheaper for families than individuals. I’m always forced to buy life insurance I don’t need, but have never been offered the substitute I could really use – LTC for myself or an elderly parent. Hell, offer me pet insurance, something, anything, to make up for the inequity. And if I don’t use materinity leave, why can’t I get a PTO allotment instead to take care of an ailing family member, or PTO time for myself? And this is all before we get taxed disproportionally for others breeding CHOICES.

  39. I agree with Erin. We’re expected to work, work, work…is this REALLY the most important thing in life? What’s the point to life if you don’t enjoy it. Life is too short to spend it stuck in a cubicle away from your loved ones and exploring everything this world has to offer. I’ve had this revelation lately and I find it hard to take all these “corporate issues” seriously, when I see that the meaning to life is not working to death.

  40. I just want to support you, life is very hard and cancer makes it unreal. there are no comforting words, I know you have to keep your job so you can get better if thats an option, and to hear others whine–I am in a quite similiar situation with cancer. Young mothers with cancer, struggling to get what we need, and to see inmates or murders can get carte blanche care and don[t have to worry about credit reports, bankruptcy. Anyway, sister–I am very sorry for your situation.

  41. Young people today have to work harder and longer because of 2 main reasons: incompetence and poor training. I blame the poor training on the employers. I blame the incompetence on the younger employees who want it all now and have no patience. Success and reward doesn’t come over night, and it doesn’t come by cheating on tests or getting by with the absolute minimum. There’s more to life and success than just partying or texting.

  42. Oh, for heaven’s sake. You people are the REASON there’s issues in the workplace. It’s never enough! Many employers will let you work less than 40 hr–for less money and fewer benefits. But I bet that isn’t what you have in mind. Telecommuting is nice–but usually nicest for the employee who’s doing the commuting. Those little daily tasks that don’t translate are picked up by their coworkers. Bottom line is that our workers pride themselves on being more intelligent and more contributory than others–hmm, the math doesn’t bear that out. Everyone can’t be in the top 10%. Do your job, listen to your boss and take your check and go home to the life you work for. I KNOW this looks mean in print but even KJ with the cancer treatments…my husband had chemo, etc and we were simply glad that he was able to hang onto his job and health insurance. You truly can’t expect an employer to do EVERYTHING for you. Crap happens to us all and the smart ones prepare in advance by saving money AND time up…just in case.

  43. I was a Dept. Mgr. and hired entry level people. Unfortunately, when a young person is given a desk with a phone and PC, (and their personal cell), they think it is time to connect with their friends, and that’s what they proceed to do all day long, producing very little actual work. Most are spoiled kids with working parents who were often bored and secluded because of lack of interaction with their own hard-working parents, and their cell phones and PCs were their only entertainment and link to the world. They’ve been given hi-tech toys instead of love and guidance, and were not taught a work ethic; however, having experienced the absence of their parents they don’t intend to live that kind of life. Unfortunately, in the office environment they feel entitled, are self-centered, with an attitude, come dressed in flip-flops and low-riding jeans and skirts revealing tattoos, and are very hard to manage.
    Having said that, I myself came to resent the fact that companies exploit employees and expect them to do two people’s work under the guise of “multi-tasking”, and will never again apply for a job that lists that word in its ads. I worked 25 years, always under stress, working overtime most days and most Saturdays, had no personal life, saw my family late in the evening, giving up any semblance of a real life, and, it’s a pipe dream to think you could to discuss issues with your boss, because he/she is under pressure to “perform” as well. They have no incentive to listen.
    Whaat is a work-life balance? At a time in this country when the workplace should be more sensitive to workers’ issues, it has eroded and gone in the other direction because the work force has grown faster than job opportunities, the large corporations have relocated overseas taking good paying jobs with them, and small businesses dominate the job market… there are lower wages, no benefits, and if you are not willing to do the piles of work expected, there are 2,000 other people lined up for your job.
    Illegal immigration has contributed greatly to this erosion because they work for lower wages and small businesses get away with hiring them (when larger companies would not be able to). Don’t think illegals only do mowing and picking, they are moving quickly into the mainstream within their own communities and gaining purchasing power, which I experienced first hand, because my employer was a home builder and was hiring only bi-lingual Spanish people to deal with the public for the last 2 years I was there. This was because Spanish people that spoke no English were dominating the home buying market in Houston.
    When health issues forced me to leave my career, there were no pension or retirement benefits, and I felt lucky to receive the 6 weeks vacation time that had accrued. This brings up another issue of promises, to salaried employees, of taking compensating time off for overtime. Companies promise this, but know the employee will never have time to take off. I am currently semi-retired, working for less than half my previous salary and relying on Social Security to fill the salary gap. Thank God for SS.. I only hope the younger generation will value it enough to preserve it for when they start having health issues, with no safety net (or golden umbrella) to save them from destitution.
    I agree with the person who asked “who came up with the 40-hour work week”, and only 2 weeks of vacation each year. Maybe we should all move to Europe where employees are valued as human beings and work hours, vacations, and benefits are set to accommodate a real work-life balance. Their economies are not growing like ours, but believe me, having a growing economy in the US only enriches the owners and executives, not the workers.

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  51. Employers want you in the office because if you work at home, even with the tracking built into today’s technology, it’s still hard to monitor exactly how much time it takes you
    to do your allotted work.

    If you can get your work done accurately in four hours, you should still get paid eight. Unfortunately, they want you to do more in the remaining four, even if your moron co-workers requires eight and are paid the same or more than you.

    There are also no guarantees you will be rewarded for the difference in productivity.
    And, it’s also easier to dump “other duties as assigned” when you are physically present.

    Employers only want to use technology to get more work out of you after you’ve put in a full day in the office, not to make your full day better. That’s a shame, as the two biggest impediments I’ve discovered to getting work done in an office are physical aspects of the office and your co-workers.

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