Time vs. Money
Posted on April 23, 2012
The Beatles put it pretty simply in their hit song “Can’t Buy Me Love”.
And now a new generation of kids entering the workforce are starting to listen to the Lennon-McCartney lyrics.
According to the USA Today, “Workers born since the early 1980s (known as millennials, Generation Y or echo boomers) crave a more collaborative work environment and detest drudgery, say workplace analysts. They want a work-life balance, which is often at odds with the values of the corporate world.”
Of course, they aren’t the only ones who are having a conversation about work-life balance and the future of American society.
Much has been written about the value of the women vote in the coming election and both the Obama and Romney campaigns have somewhat clumsily attempted to seize the upper hand in appealing to that mythical demographic.
One issue, though, that concerns just about all women (and most men) is finding a happy work-life balance. You won’t see this issue at the top of any poll, but I guarantee that if the pollsters dug a little deeper, they would find that that this is the top concern of many families and most mothers.
It is hard to imagine a government policy that could easily mandate a greater sensitivity to work-life balance but that doesn’t mean that the government has no role in creating a culture that appreciates the importance of family to society.
Work-life balance comes with greater economic security. If you know you are secure in your job, you don’t feel the need to work all hours of the night. Work-life balance comes with greater economic growth. When the economy grows faster, employees have the upper hand in decided when and where they want to work.
For Mitt Romney, the work-life balance issue provides both a challenge and an opportunity.
As a former private equity banker who cared mostly about the bottom lines of the various companies he bought and sold, Romney has to train himself now to think about employees less as units of productivity and more as human beings who have lives outside the workplace. And as a former champion of the philosophy of creative destruction, he has to better understand that creative destruction doesn’t work for everybody.
But the opportunity for Romney comes with President Obama’s dismal record on the economy. Finding work is the most important facet in finding a proper work-life balance and the Obama economy has been bad on that front.
Romney’s approach to government also should work better with a society that is rapidly transforming itself without the help of wide government mandates. Flexibility is the key to folks trying to work with their employers on finding that work life balance and often government regulations get in the way of reaching those compromises.
The whole idea of a Labor Department that strictly mandates what employees can and can’t do and enforces union contracts that make flexibility impossible is antiquated.
But that doesn’t mean that employers should have all the power in dictating these relationships. It is all too easy to have the bosses make people work all of the time, and through the ubiquity of mobile devices, some employees never seem to be able to leave the workplace (because the workplace goes with them).
The workplace is changing faster than it ever has in the history of humanity. Rules are changing, gender roles are merging, and technology is both leading this transformation and adapting to the changes.
And in many ways, these changes mean a brighter future for workers as long as the government stays out of the way. Telecommuniting, greater productivity through technology, the need for more creativity, social networking, for us by us marketing, all of these things point to greater wealth, but more importantly for more people, more time for a greater work-life balance.
At least that is the hope. Sure, money is important. But time is even more important.