Twenty minutes after Randy Block settled into the theater seat for a much-awaited night out, his mobile phone vibrated and he had to leave the play.
“It’s my business,” said the president of Enhanced HomeCare, a home health care company for the elderly.
“It’s my life.”
And there lies the blur between work and private life. In the last decade, the difference for many workers has become nearly invisible.
Whether an on-call employee, a workaholic, or a self-employed person who has no one else to turn to, many work lives are now nearly 24/7. There’s no clocking in and out, no overtime for “extra” hours worked.
Pushed by technology and job evolution in the service economy, fewer American workers know what “quittin’ time” is.
“We’ve come to expect after-hours responses as part of the job,” said Jim Holland, a partner with the Fisher & Phillips law firm in Kansas City. “Twenty years ago, clients expected to wait three days to get an answer. Now, if they wait three minutes, they can be upset.”
The always-on workforce — carrying smartphones and digital notebooks — has given up much expectation of private time and even personal privacy. Some employees work with GPS devices in their phones or vehicles that can monitor their whereabouts no matter the time of day. Still other workers, as a condition of employment, are asked to share passwords to their personal social media accounts.
Holland muses that “there’s not a lot of recourse to fight the 24/7 world, other than to say, ‘I don’t want this job,’ ” which is an unrealistic response for many workers who need the paycheck...