Career: Computer Engineer | Dafiti | Brazil
Balancing Home and Work Demands in Today's Economy
Eric Sanderson works as an engineer at Monsanto. His duties include managing resources, negotiating with suppliers and following employees’ progress.
He has obligations as a father as well: taking his 8-year-old daughter to track and also singing lullabies to his 3-year-old son. Likewise, he has other responsibilities as a husband, especially the romantic nights out on Wednesdays with his wife, Katherine. Lately, he’s been shirking in the last of these; however, it’s not entirely his fault. Various unexpected complications — sick children, problems with suppliers at Monsanto, emergencies at the hospital where Katherine works as a nurse — have conspired to keep them apart on Wednesdays.
Eric and Katherine can’t complain much about their financial situation. They have plenty of money in their bank account, a paid house, beach house, two cars and memberships in golf, chess, poker, soccer, basketball and swimming clubs (without the time to participate). They would like to spend more time together, more time with their kids, to be involved in their lives, to go to school meetings and to go camping. Unfortunately Eric has to work 60 hours a week at Monsanto plus overtime when something goes wrong — which happens quite often, and Katherine works 40 hours a week plus emergencies.
One day, while grocery shopping, they commented to each other that they wish they could buy time, no matter what the cost. This conversation was heard by Matthew Viviano. Matthew Viviano had been unemployed for almost five years after being fired from Chevrolet in the 2008 financial crisis. He and his wife, Angie, lived in his mother’s house in St. Louis. With little money, they could not afford to buy new school supplies for little Alex to go to school or new pants for Samantha. Matthew graduated from UCLA with a degree in mechanical engineering and had been struggling to find a job while Angie had been working part time at McDonald’s, where she gained 20 pounds since she started last year. Their life is hard. They can barely pay the bills, earning the odd dollar through temporary or freelance jobs on Craig’s List.
These two problems — so different on the surface, but in fact very closely related — exemplify a few consequences of one of the laws of capitalism: maximizing efficiency and cutting expenses. Companies would rather hire only one person for a position that could be performed by two. The idea is to make the employee work more and be more connected with his job, instead of hiring more employees with increased costs of salaries, health insurance and retirement.
Unemployment is at 7.5 percent of the workforce in the U.S.A. and 6 percent worldwide (June 2013). At the same time, companies still make it difficult for their employees to work fewer hours during the week or to take off more than 15 days in a year. The average American can expect to work 44 hours a week, and managers, directors and coordinators of businesses may be on the job for up to 70 hours a week. The
New Economics Foundation has studied the 9-to-5 work model and come to the conclusion that is not sustainable. Instead they recommend a business model where employees would work for 21 hours per week. With people working fewer hours, they can spend more time with their families and have more time to spend the money that they earn. Increased circulation of money fuels the economy, and with higher employment rates, more people would be receiving a salary and be likely to spend money, thus leading to an increase in production and in the economically active population. Despite the logical benefits of this practice, it is still difficult for companies to take the initiative to enact it because companies only see the short-term benefit of hiring fewer employees.
What this suggests in my view is that
the government should offer incentives, such as a reduction in taxes, for companies or create regulatory laws to address this issue.
After Eric and Matthew met and told each other of their dilemmas, they arrived at a useful solution. Eric would hire Matthew as his assistant, delegating some of his workplace obligations. Impressed by the resulting increase in productivity, Monsanto decided to hire Matthew as a full-time assistant. Now, both Eric and Matthew enjoy the financial stability of salaried positions and the spare time to embrace life with their loved ones.