In the wake of the devastating hurricanes, many of the country’s top businesses have had to shut down, and they’re now starting to re-evaluate what it takes to do that.
It’s one of the first times in history that people are starting to look at the issue, and some are wondering what’s in it for them.
“People are saying, ‘Why don’t we have a vacation, what do I need to do to get there?’
And I say, ‘No, it’s in our nature to be a bit distracted,'” says Michael G. Gensler, president of the Institute for the Study of Work and Employment.
“But I also think, when we think about this as a collective effort, we have to think about how this all contributes to productivity.”
The most popular reason companies are closing is because of weather, says Genslers co-author and director of the Center for Business and Organization Research at Northwestern University.
“We’re living in a very short-lived climate where we have really bad weather, and we have people that are spending their days working in a field where the weather is so erratic,” he says.
“It’s just the nature of what we do.
It takes a lot of time to prepare.
And we’re in a world that has very short days and very long nights.
It is just not practical to have a lot more than we need to for people to get to their destinations in a timely manner.”
Gensler says the same is true for companies like airlines, which are also facing challenges.
“You’re basically competing with the weather for resources and you’re competing with your schedule.
But the way you think about it is, what are the long-term benefits of having that kind of a schedule?” he says, “If you have to do more than a week of work in a week, you’re going to have fewer employees and that’s going to be detrimental to productivity.
So there’s not really a good reason to do it.”
Gansler says many companies have been working to adjust their schedule.
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” he admits.
“Sometimes it’s not as simple as just taking the time to take a day off.
We’re starting to see some of these companies like United and Continental, that are trying to adjust to a climate that’s much more like the rest of the world, where the days are shorter and the hours are shorter.
And they’re trying to figure out ways to make that happen.”
The key to keeping people engaged is to give them some flexibility, Gensers says.
“There are some things that can be done that are a bit more difficult,” he adds.
“One thing that I think has really been a big factor for us is we’ve been doing things that have been very much designed for the past 20 years or so to get people to work more efficiently, to have less stress.
I think we’re beginning to see a little bit of that shift in the workplace.”
But what can people do to keep up with their schedules and still get to work?
Genslers suggests people find a way to schedule work around their interests.
“I think a lot people think about, ‘Well, I’ll just do whatever I want and I’ll never be bored,'” he says of what he calls the “workday dream.”
“But I don’t think that’s necessarily true.
I would argue that it is the most important piece of advice we can give people,” he continues.
“A lot of the things we’re doing are about keeping people busy and having a lot less stress.”
Genners points out that while some people will be busy and others will not, the key is to find a balance.
“In a way, the workday dream is a kind of an extension of the social life,” he explains.
“The workday, at its heart, is a very long-range goal for your life, because it’s about how long you want to spend your life.”
So how can we help people do that?
Genser suggests finding ways to create a sense of purpose.
“People think, ‘Oh, I want to get paid.
I want the best job in the world.
I’ll do whatever it takes,’ but it’s actually more of an excuse than a commitment,” he notes.
“So I think a really important part of creating that sense of belonging, and of being productive and being engaged, is to have some form of goal.”
“If we really try to give people that sense that, ‘I’m not just going to sit at home and do this because I’m bored,’ then that’s really not going to help them to be productive,” he points out.
“They’re not going have that sense.”
But if the goal is not to be bored, but to be able to have that social life,