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June 13, 2003

"Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live."
-- Margaret Fuller
For years we've heard the concern for work-life balance.  The shift we're sensing is to life-work balance.  It's a subtle shift, but an important one. People are putting life before work, instead of work before life. 

One of the impacts of the September 11 terrorist attacks is a heightened awareness of our mortality, of the value of life.  Life is more fragile than we'd thought.  Relationships with family and friends should be treasured and nurtured.  Attention to personal health has intensified, amplified by the increasing concern for obesity and other wellness issues. 

Young people graduating from school and entering the world of work are not enthusiastic about dedicating themselves to the job above all else.  They have watched employers dump redundant people like they were trash to be discarded.  Younger workers do not have the same commitment to their work or their employers that we saw in earlier generations. 

Older workers (30-55) who have been negatively affected by the economy, are asking themselves if the race for money, prestige, and power is really worthwhile.  Senior citizens (55 and above) are disenchanted with the prospect of working longer and longer.  They want a break, or at least some flexibility to enjoy life along the way. 

People are searching for different ways to manage their lives, to include work as an important, but lesser priority.  Those attitudes will alter their relationships with their employers as we move through this decade, though most employers have not yet realized the change in expectations. 

Workers will look for employers that offer flexibility in working arrangements. They will seek more flexibility, creative time-off opportunities, and job conditions that are more fun.  Yes, fun.  Workplaces will become more like communities of people who enjoy being together, achieving results together, celebrating together.  Relationships with children will become more important to workers, who will ask to modify their schedules and responsibilities to be available more for their families. 

Will this be a dominant trend?  Not right away.  It will evolve over time. We are, however, further down this path than most employers realize. It's time for some fresh thinking. 

By Roger E. Herman at roger@hermangroup.com
Roger Herman publishes a weekly e-mail "The Herman Trend Alert."To subscribe, go to
Exciting to see that life and work are moving towards a new way of combining.  If you want to be on the cutting edge of a new trend, consider the following:

1.     If you are an employer, what is one step you could take to bring more flexibility in the workplace to your employees? 

2.     If you are a manager, will you consider bringing this topic to your employer and be seen as a forward thinker? 

3.     If you are an employee, see number 2.  How can this help your company at this time?

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