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Many Americans Won't Be Celebrating This Labor Day

"Working in America" survey results confirm most feel overworked

September 2004 (Newstream) -- As Americans prepare for this upcoming Labor Day, new survey findings indicate many people don't have much to celebrate. The findings, which validate that many Americans may feel overworked, are the result of a recent Harris Interactive® study, sponsored by Kronos® Incorporated (Nasdaq: KRON). Of the more than 1,050 employed adults surveyed, 62 percent have experienced an increase in job responsibilities in the last six months.

"Americans really deserve the Labor Day holiday this year, but not everyone will take the day off. While the economy has been sliding downward, worker productivity has inched upward," said Professor Joanne B. Ciulla, author of The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work. "The work ethic is alive and well, but after years of economic uncertainty, it is often a work ethic based on fear or necessity. Americans need a day to relax and enjoy the other things life has to offer."

Working longer with no relief in site

In the last six months, 32 percent of U.S. adults who are employed full-time have increased their workweek hours. Of those, 67 percent are working an additional five or more hours each week. And also of those who said their workweek has increased, the survey identified lack of efficient staffing, less people to do the same amount of work, and pressure to do more as the top three drivers for the increase. When asked if they expect any relief from the increased hours within the next six months, the majority answered no.

Needing a helping hand

Another startling finding is that although more than half of employed adults have increased their job responsibilities in the last six months, 62 percent also have not received a pay raise. This statistic complements information in a recent report (State of Working America, 2004/2005) from the Economic Policy Institute. The report states that weekly earnings for most workers has fallen by 1.5 percent after inflation despite the onset of the economic recovery, fast productivity growth, and even the return of job growth over the past year.

The survey also found that more than half of workers feel their employer does not appreciate or reward them well. When asked what benefits participants would like their employer to improve, salary/compensation, healthcare, and sick/vacation were the top three.

"These survey results corroborate what many economists suspected: one reason for the jobless recovery was employers squeezing all they could out of their current workforce," said Jared Bernstein, director of the living standards program at the Economic Policy Institute and author of the forthcoming book State of Working America, 2004. "For a time, this may reduce labor costs and boost productivity, but it also creates unsustainable stress on working families, many of whom are failing to benefit much from the extra growth they are creating."

Vacation time is a distant memory

A March supplement of the 2002 Work Experience of the Population study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the proportion of full-time, year-round workers is 66.3 percent. Although this percentage has leveled off from a peak in 2000, it is still high by historical standards. The series had been trending up since 1950.

With technology advances and increases in work responsibilities, the amount of vacation time that Americans use is on the decline. According to the Harris Interactive/Kronos Incorporated survey, 67 percent of employed adults have not used all of their allocated vacation time in the last 12 months. And with Labor Day fast approaching, approximately 45 percent expect to work over the holiday weekend.

"There is a clear correlation that a greater share of Americans are full-time, year-round workers and, therefore, probably enjoying fewer vacations," said Randy Ilg, economist for the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics. "This is a growing trend and a result of the economic challenges American families face today."

The Solution

It is obvious that working Americans are in crisis, but there is a solution. Many organizations are successfully solving the issue of the overworked workforce. Managing the workforce is the exercise of balancing four demands: cost, compliance, quality, and employee satisfaction. Managing costs is an imperative, considering that most companies are bottom-line focused. Compliance gets attention because of the legal implications. Quality, often measured by customer satisfaction, has been an area of focus since the 1980s. Employee satisfaction, highlighted in the survey, is an area that often does not get enough attention.

Best practices organizations are using Kronos solutions to solve the problem by creating an engaged workforce, which is aligned with corporate objectives. These organizations are basing employee compensation on performance rather than the number of hours worked. As a result, they are creating an environment where performance and compensation are linked to employee goals. This enables organizations to identify top performers based on results rather than hours worked. Best practices organizations are also using Kronos solutions to forecast and plan the workforce based on the expected or actual volume of work. This allows them to schedule the right employees with the right skills in advance and lessen the need for last-minute changes. Employees benefit with self-service tools which enable them to control their schedule by identifying preferences, vacation time, and availability. The solutions encourages employees to use their allotted vacation time by allowing them better access to personal time balances and better tools to schedule time off. This supports a healthy work-life balance.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. between July 20-26, 2004 among a nationwide cross-section of 1,052 full-time employed adults (aged 18+). Figures for age, sex, race, education, income, and region were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online. In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points of what they would be if the entire adult population had been polled with complete accuracy. This online survey was not a probability sample.

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