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Work and Family, are Boundaries Fading?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

“Working 9 to 5”

“Working nine to five what a way to make a living
Barely getting by it’s all taking and no giving
They just use your mind and they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it
Nine to five yeah they got you where they want to
There’s a better life and you think about it don’t you
It’s a rich man’s game no matter what they call it
And you spend your life puttin’ money in his wallet

Working nine to five what a way to make a living…”


There was a time, until fairly recently, when everyone worked 9 to 5. The eight hour day was established by law long ago. When the 8 hours of work were over, people returned home and spent time with the family.

Then, the world underwent a technological revolution led by computer technology. However, more than computers alone, came the mobile or wireless revolution that has been so powerful that it has made the advent of the desktop computer seem like a horse and buggy.

Wireless smart phones, Ipads, laptop computers and 3G computer note books have all but erased the old 9 to 5 work day. In fact, our entire way of doing business, vacationing and living has been impacted by this revolution.

Fictionalized Case Study:

A young married couple makes an appointment to see me for marriage therapy. Tension and conflict have developed over her career and how it’s influencing their relationship as well as their infant, parents and friends.

Computer and wireless technology have allowed her to work at home where she handles company contracts and business obligations that stretch around the world. While she earns an excellent living, her husband, family and friends complain that she no longer seems as available to them as she once was. Their greatest concern is over how she is handling her responsibilities to her baby. It was thought that working at home would provide her the time to be with the infant.

In effect, the very same technology that allowed her to work at home has also brought her entire industry into her house, private life and leisure time. Clients around the world either are not aware that she is living in a different time zone or they don’t care. She is constantly distracted, called away, or interrupted from anything she is doing and at any time of day or night. Her employers have no sympathy. They just want her to be productive because they are paying her a very handsome salary, which, they believe, should make it all worthwhile. Needing the money for her young family, she agrees and works slavishly.

This scenario is not unusual in homes around the nation and world. Family dinners are interrupted by children and parents receiving text messages in the middle of conversations. Teachers are required to check their E. Mail and go to the school web site to read messages from parents and administrators. Even while walking down the street, we pass people in the midst of lively cell phone conversations with friends and family. The other alternative is that these conversations are with their employers or clients.

Probably one of the worst parts of this scenario is that in a time of economic recession with a 9% unemployment rate, people are willing to tolerate the intrusions on their time because they are happy to just have a job.

Wireless technology has even altered the way people spend their vacations. Remember the advertisement of the man who sat on a magnificent empty beach on an exquisite island? He sat with his open laptop and tiny ear phones attached to his ears. The advertisement touted the fact that, even at the beach, you can take care of business. Is this a good thing? 

In fact, as if drunk driving isn’t bad enough, driving while texting (distracted driving) has become an equally dangerous activity that results in untold numbers of accidents and deaths.

This article describes a very serious problem. It’s a problem that has shattered all the labor laws designed to protect workers on all levels and to allow people to have time to have a family life, leisure time and a vacation.

However, I don’t know the solution and that is why I present this to my readers. Are you one of those affected by this and how do you handle it. What are your suggestions? Can we ever get back to 9 to 5?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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