Time, Work, Family, and Stress
Time use and the direction of human effort are integral to the study of management. Queen Elizabeth I said on her deathbed, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” Time is generally considered the ultimate resource because it is a resource all people, rich or poor, share. In the discipline in the past there was debate about whether time is a “true” resource (Winter 1995).
As the Queen Elizabeth I quote shows we all share time but it is finite. Therefore, a critical management question is how do we make the best use of the time that we do have. One answer is through conscious control. In management studies, a person is trained to ask when confronted with competing activities, “What is the best use of my time right now?” Another question to ask is “Is the activity I am about to undertake consistent with my goals?” These questions address both quantitative time (measured units of time such as minutes and hours) and qualitative time (feelings about how time is spent). Time perceptions vary widely by individual and by culture. For example, being on time in most North American cultures means five or ten minutes before the agreed upon time or being right on time. In other cultures, being an hour late may still be regarded as being on time. Discretionary time is free time one can use any way one wants. Nondiscretionary time is programmed by others or set by schedules and appointments. Everyday life is a combination of both. Stress is often caused by not having enough discretionary time. Over-programmed time is a problem for children as well as adults.
Few people are immune from the difficulties of trying to balance work and family life. Most controversy centers around managing hours and responsibilities, but it is also about one’s priorities. Which is more important: work or family? When someone is asked to work overtime, this question becomes apparent. In workaholism, work is the most pleasurable part of life and family or personal life takes a back seat. On the other hand, procrastination is the postponement of work usually in favor of more pleasurable parts of family or personal life.
With improvements in technology, there has been a blurring of work and family roles and often less lag time. Email, cellular telephones, automatic teller machines, and the Internet have accelerated everyday life and have made people, information, and services more accessible. Work and family lives are becoming increasingly blurred and even may share the same physical space as one considers the growth in the number of home-based businesses.
The twenty-first century will be characterized by more family transformation and stress (McCubbin et al. 1997). Because the purpose of management is not only to describe problems, but also to present solutions, distress and fatigue are subjects of discussion in terms of what can be done to lessen them. Regarding getting more sleep, James Maas (1998) suggests getting an adequate amount of sleep every night, establishing a regular sleep schedule, getting continuous sleep, and making up for lost sleep. Another solution is the reestablishment of routines such as regular mealtimes as a way to simplify life. The simplification process may involve other steps such as pulling back on spending and building up more savings to provide for more leisure time in the future (Goldsmith 2001).
Family resource specialists strive to reach a stage called managerial judgment, defined as the ability to accept and work with change for the betterment of self and humankind. The ultimate goal of the management expert is the creation of a better tomorrow.