Life in Balance
Statewide Survey Analysis
The popular profile of the “successful” business person is one who works 24/7, is driven by profit, and who reaps large financial rewards. In the end though, is a life devoid of deep family relationships and refreshing leisure really a successful life? What balance must one achieve to bring together success in business with commitment to family and spiritual/personal fulfillment outside the business arena?
Further, is business simply a way to earn money, or is it part of our “calling” to improve not only our lot in life, but the lives of our employees and customers? Does business provide us with an opportunity, or even an obligation, to do more than just make money?
Today’s technologically advanced society has made it possible for many people to work from almost anywhere. No longer are we bound to the office or must we be physically present to “mind the store.” Computers have made it possible for many to work from home, or even the beach. Cellular telephones allow us to work in our cars, and on airplanes. The current trend in restaurants and coffee shops is to make them “hot spots” with wireless internet service that will allow customers to connect to the internet while dining.
The Internet and e-mail have made instantaneous communications possible, so staying “in touch” has never been easier – or has it? In a world where “wall-to-wall” television coverage and an explosion of cable channels has made it possible for the media to cater to virtually every interest, our time is consumed watching, reading, or listening to the devices that deliver this explosion of information to us.
Thus, while the means of receiving information has never been more omnipresent and easily available, have we reached a point of information overload where sorting through the daily bombardment of material actually adds to our workload, rather than lessening it.
Unless you believe that you “live to work” rather than “work to live,” the income you’ve earned from your work or professional career is the means to another end: personal enrichment through family life, friends, spiritual fulfillment, or recreation.
For many, work is their passion in addition to merely a means of earning income. Thus, personal satisfaction can be achieved through work. As well, some labor in vocations that improve the lives of others, so in addition to being a way of making money, their occupation also fills a vital social or religious role causing them to be fulfilled in two ways simultaneously.
Whether a hard-driven businessman, or a “have it all” mom, balancing work responsibilities with family life presents problems. What do you do when you have an important business meeting or trip, and the same day your son or daughter is about to appear in the local all-star baseball game? What if you are devoutly religious, but your boss wants you to work on Sunday morning?
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. conducted a poll of Pennsylvania business leaders to ascertain their views on these issues. Utilizing a combination of direct mail and electronic survey instruments, the Lincoln Institute collected 897 responses during the month of March, 2005.
There was nearly unanimous agreement on the part of those surveyed that it is important for a business person to balance his or her professional career with family life or recreational time. A total of 97% said such balance was important – with 83% saying it is very important and 14% saying balance was somewhat important. Only 2% indicated balancing work and family was unimportant, while 1% offered no opinion.
The next question sought to find out how well our respondents were able to live up to the goal of balancing work/family life. A majority, 54%, said they in fact feel they spend the right amount of time on business and professional activities. However, 38% admitted to spending too much time on business and not enough time on family or leisure activities. Only 6% said they spend too little time on business and too much time on other pursuits.
In terms of family time, 49% said they are satisfied that they spend about the right amount of time with their families or engaging in leisure activities. But nearly as many, 48%, said they spend too little time with their family, or simply enjoying themselves. Only 1% said they spend too much time with their families, and 1% did not answer.
Every generation thinks life is more difficult and fast-paced than those that came before them, and today’s business leaders are no exception to that rule. Seventy percent of the business executives responding to the Life in Balance survey said it is more difficult to balance business/career demands with family/leisure time activities than it was ten years ago.
Of that total, 33% said it is significantly more difficult to bring about a balance between work and family than it was ten years ago, while another 37% said it is somewhat more difficult to do so. Twenty-one percent of the poll respondents said the level of difficulty in balancing work and family is about the same as it was ten years ago. Six percent said it is somewhat less difficult to bring life into balance, while 1% said it is significantly less difficult. Two percent did not respond.
What Makes A Person a “Success”?
Most people dedicate a significant portion of their lives to their work or career, if for no other reason than the necessity of earning an income. Most people can tell you whether or not they feel successful in their lives and careers. But ask ten people to define “success” and you are likely to get ten different answers.
Our Life in Balance poll asked a series of three questions in an effort to find out what criteria Pennsylvania ’s business leaders use in judging whether or not their lives are successful.
First, we asked if they would agree or disagree with the statement: “The most important measure of success is how much money a person makes.” Eighty-one percent disagreed with that statement – and there was a strong intensity to the disagreement. Fifty-eight percent said they strongly disagreed that money was the key measure of a person’s success, wile another 23% somewhat disagreed. A total of 17% of the respondents agreed with the statement, saying money is the primary gauge of a person’s success. Another 2% offered no opinion.
Having largely ruled out money as the key barometer of success, we then asked if our poll participants would agree or disagree that: “The most important measure of success is what others think of you.” This produced a split response. Forty-eight percent agreed with the statement. Ten percent strongly agreed that what others think of you is the key measure of success, another 38% were somewhat in agreement.
But, half the respondents (50%) disagreed that the opinion of others mattered most in determining whether or not you are a success. Twenty-seven percent strongly disagreed with the statement, while 23% were somewhat in disagreement. The remaining two percent did not offer an opinion.
With money and the opinion of others ruled out as appropriate measures of success, respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “The most important measure of success is what a person does to help others.” Eighty-nine percent said they agreed with that statement. Thirty-four percent were in strong agreement, and another 55% said they somewhat agreed. Only ten percent said they disagreed that helping others was the most important measure of a successful life.
The results of these three questions run counter to the prevailing image of business leaders as money-driven profiteers who put the bottom line over people. Thus, the survey reveals that if you examine a cross section of business leaders, you will find there is balance between the need to be financially successful in business, yet making service to others part of your life.
When asked what the main reason is why they selected their current business or occupation, 30% said they did so because of their personal interest in their line of work. Another 26% said they are doing their current job because it “fits their abilities.” Twenty-one percent are working in a family business. Eleven percent said they selected their occupation because of the societal or community good they could do in their job. Seven percent listed money or pay as the determining factor in their selection of an occupation.
Service to Others
While holding service to others up as a key determinant of personal success, the Lincoln Institute poll of business leaders yielded mixed results in terms of their own participation in civic and religious activities.
Poll respondents were most likely to be involved in youth activities. Sixty percent said they have served as an adult leader for organized youth activities serving in such capacities as a sports coach, or scouting leader. Thirty-eight percent said they have not participated in such activities.
Participation in service clubs, such as Rotary and Lions, has declined in recent years. Only 32% of those polled said they currently belong to a service club, while 66% said they do not.
In terms of dedicating time each week to performing volunteer service or other community activities, 27% of those participating in the Life in Balance poll said they give one to two hours of time per week. Another 20% invest three to five hours per week in community volunteer activities, while 15% contribute more of their time. However, 35% said they give no time at all to such volunteer activities.
Thirty-eight percent said they serve in a volunteer capacity at their church, synagogue, mosque or other religious institution. Fifty-nine percent said they do not dedicate time to faith-based activities.
Religion or spirituality can take many forms. One means of engaging in such activities to attend formal religious services. Pennsylvania ’s business leaders were asked if they regularly attend church, synagogue, mosque or other religious services and 59% responded that they do. Thirty-nine percent said they are not regular attendees at religious services, while 2% did not respond.
The Lincoln Institute poll then sought to determine whether attendance at religious services, or personal spiritual practices, impacted on the respondents’ actions in the workplace. A total of 77% said they in fact do rely on their religious beliefs as a guide to making moral business decisions. Twenty-one percent said their personal religious beliefs play no role in the workplace. Two percent did not answer.
Stress is a factor in most jobs, particularly for those in executive or management positions. Eighty-two percent of those participating in the Life in Balance poll said they turn to their religious beliefs to help relieve stress and to restore tranquility to their lives. Of that number, 41% said they turn to their religious beliefs frequently. Another 41% said they sometimes rely on religion to help them cope with stress. One percent did not respond to the question.
Characteristics of Success
America is the land of opportunity. We truly are a nation where any little boy can grow up to be President (and probably soon, any little girl). Since the very early days of our colonial experience America has been the “shining city” that beckons people from other lands to come here where, with effort and ingenuity, they too can find a better life.
The Lincoln Institute’s Life in Balance poll found that hard work and enthusiasm are still the most desirable traits, and are the keys to success in the business world. A solid majority – 56% – of respondents said that enthusiasm and work ethic are the single most important personal characteristic needed to succeed in business today. The next most important characteristic, at 24%, is intelligence and ability. Formal education came in a distant third, with just 4% saying a degree or certificate is the key to success. Previous job experience was cited by 3%, while 2% cited quality of references, and 1% listed marital status.
Work ethic clearly remains the key to success. However, many of Pennsylvania ’s business leaders feel fewer and fewer potential employees are making the grade when it comes to hard work. Asked if they found the level of personal responsibility and work ethic of employees today to be better, about the same, or worse than it was five years ago, 57% said it is worse. Of that number 43% said the work ethic of today’s employees is somewhat worse, while 14% said it is significantly worse. Thirty-four percent said the work ethic of Pennsylvania ’s workforce is about the same today as it was five years ago. Only 6% said employee work ethics have improved over the past five years.
Employers are also finding it more difficult to get their employees to work overtime, or more than the traditional 40-hour week. As compared to ten years ago, 44% said employees are less willing to work overtime. A third, 33%, said employees today are about as willing to work overtime as they were ten years ago. Only 11% said employees are more willing to work overtime or more than the traditional 40-hour work week.
Quality of life issues are higher on the priority list for employees today than they were ten years ago. Thirty-five percent reported that prospective new hires are more concerned about quality of life issues than they were a decade ago, with 10% significantly more concerned and 25% somewhat more concerned. About a quarter of the respondents (26%) said the level of concern among prospective employees is “about the same” as it was ten years ago. Another 20% said employees today are less concerned with quality of life issues. A total of 19% did not respond to the question.
One factor driving concern over the quality of employee available for hire in Pennsylvania today is the job the state’s government run or public schools are doing in preparing students for jobs in the workplace. A solid majority, 59%, say Pennsylvania ’s public schools are doing a poor job in preparing students for their work careers. Of that number, 22% say public schools are doing a very poor job, and 37% say they are doing somewhat of a poor job. Thirty-four percent gave public education a passing grade, saying they are doing well in preparing students for jobs in the workforce – but only 2% said they are doing very well. Seven percent did not answer.
Corporate America has taken an image hit over the past few years. From Enron, to Adelphia, to Martha Stewart, high profile business scandals have grabbed headlines and lead the evening news.
Pennsylvania ’s business leaders participating in the Lincoln Institute’s Life in Balance poll say all those scandals have lowered the level of public trust in the business community. Fifty-one percent said the overall level of trust in corporate America is low. Conversely, just 3% said trust levels are high. Forty-one percent rated the public’s level of trust to be medium.
Just about half, 49%, of those responding said their business or place of employment has a written “code of ethics” or other official policy governing employee conduct. Forty-seven percent said they have no such document while 1% did not know, and 3% did not answer the question.
Only 27% of the poll participants said their business or place of employment has ever conducted seminars, or offered any formal instruction to employees on the subject of business ethics. A total of 69% said no such instruction has been conducted, while 2% did not know and another 2% did not respond.
Few businesses have in play any sort of formal review process to ensure that managers and employees are operating in a legal and ethical manner. Thirty-eight percent reported having such a process at their business or place of employment. A majority of 54% do not have such procedures. Two percent did not know and 6% did not answer.
Professional and trade organizations are popular among Pennsylvania ’s business leaders. Sixty-three percent report belonging to such an organization, while 35% do not.
Of those responding to the Lincoln Institute’s Life in Balance poll, 70% were male and 28% were female. Two percent did not answer.
By age group, 2% were between 18 and 30 years of age; 11% were in the 31-40 age group; 30% were aged 41-50; 40% were 51-65; and 14% reported being over 65 years of age. Three percent did not respond.
In terms of income, 7% said they earn under $20,000 per year; 8% earn between $20,000 and $30,000. Twenty percent said they are paid $30,000 to $50,000 annually, and another 20% reported making between $50,000 and $75,000. Thirteen percent make between $75,000 and $100,000 per year, while 24% reported annual compensation over $100,000. Nine percent did not answer.
Twenty-one percent of the survey sample holds a graduate degree, 29% earned a four-year degree, and 13% have a post-secondary certificate degree. Thirty percent report a high school diploma as their highest academic achievement, while 5% did not complete high school.
The political party affiliation of 58% of those participating in the poll was reported to be Republican, 25% said they are registered in the Democrat party. Eight percent are independents, and 5% are not registered to vote.
Almost half (49%) of the survey respondents are protestant, 28% are Catholic. Another 2% reported being of the Jewish faith, and 1% are Orthodox. Fourteen percent profess another faith, and 6% did not answer.