Week 4

This week I was very interested to find the New York Times article on the 6-hour workweek in Sweden. This comes on the heels of a story that was going around Facebook last week about France passing legislation to discourage companies from sending employees emails outside of a certain set of hours (Mosbergen, 2016).

I am constantly checking emails from work, and not because I have to. I just like to keep up and know what's coming so I don't get blindsided on Monday morning. I don't want to fall behind. (My OCD also doesn't like unread notifications, but that's a post for another day.) I actually find it kind of silly to ask companies not to send emails after hours. After all, email is just a form of communication, and a passive one at that. The simple act of sending it does not guarantee that it's getting read after hours. Wouldn't it be easier to let employees off the hook and tell them that they are in no way expected to read the emails we send them after hours? I don't know about other managers, but I find myself emailing my boss and my employees alike whenever I'm thinking about something and I don't want to forget. I never expect either one to get my message until they're on the clock.

Mosbergen (2016) says that with the advent of digital technology, disconnecting is harder than ever, and he's right.

Disconnecting from work can be hard, especially in America. Personally, I don't do a great job of it. However, I think a 6-hour workday could be helpful here in a country where everyone could use a break. We could all benefit from spending more time with ourselves and our families so we can come back to work refreshed and happier and healthier. In the end, I believe it would benefit our companies tremendously, with one caveat.

As Mosbergen pointed out, until our business culture stops being about doing more and more with less, and beating our competitors—until we can work smarter in a shorter time frame rather than harder—the issue can't really be solved.

-Laura

References

Mosbergen, D. (May 25, 2016). French legislation suggests employees deserve the right to disconnect. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/work-emails-france-labor-law_us_57455130e4b03ede4413515a

Week 2

As I was researching the workplace culture of Sweden, I thought of a lot of the connections to my own workplace, and previous places of employment.

I came from working at a daily newspaper, where I clocked in and out on a timely schedule, regardless of the fact that news doesn't happen on a clock. As more and more was asked of me in my position, it was still important that I did the work in the same exact amount of time I was given to do less work previously, just so I wouldn't have to be paid more. As people left the company, we went into a hiring freeze. Then, we started taking pay cuts and furloughs. The stress mounted, as I realized that I wasn't being respected as the journalist I had trained to be, and I slowly lost respect for that company. Finally, I found a ticket out.

Today, I am much happier, working in Media Services at a community college in the St. Louis metropolitan area (on the Illinois side in a town called Godfrey, Illinois). In contrast to my previous workplace, I am a salaried professional with a family, and I work approximately the same number of hours each week, but on a flexible schedule. Although my job is from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, it is not uncommon for me to work outside of those hours to make up for time spent dropping my child at her grandparents' or taking her to the doctor, or even to cover an event after hours. I feel respected. My boss understands that my family is a priority and knows that the college is a personal priority for mine as well. I feel trusted.

It was only recently I lost total respect for my previous workplace. From the outside, I have been able to see more clearly how destructive the workplace culture really was, and I thank my stars every day that I left there. If I hadn't, I certainly wouldn't be here today.

What really strikes me about the Swedish workplace culture is that respect. I like that everyone gets an equal say, and that it's about compromise and not competition. I think a little personal competition can be healthy, but so many American professionals let it get out of hand, and that can work against collaboration and teamwork.

Until I started following the news, I didn't see clearly that this struggle for equality can also present problems of its own. Equality in the housing marketallowing anyone and everyone to jump into the housing queue without a free market to regulate priceshas actually caused a huge problem in Sweden. And that problem, in turn, has made it difficult for people who might find the workplace culture in the country attractive, but also might find it impossible to follow an opportunity and start a life for themselves in Sweden.

I look forward to following the news over the next few weeks and learning more. I'm also going to take a closer look at other levels of culture in the country.

Thanks for reading!
-Laura