The value of a clean break

You said you wanted more-flexible hours.

Seems a fair number of employers heard your cry, shot a glance at the wall clock - and said: "Sure. How about one great big never-ending day?"

Round-the-clock operations are nothing new to plant workers, cops, and Denny's cashiers. More of us may soon get to know them.

People today work longer hours, and many ask for more freedom in return. But those who figured "work/life balance" would somehow always favor more home life may be in for a surprise.

Consider quiet trends in office construction that include the installment of sleeping rooms.

How many of us work nights? Last week, The Wall Street Journal cited an estimate of 23 million workers made by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Circadian Technologies. That's many millions above US government figures on shift workers with night assignments.

The huge number reflects a broadening definition of night workers, including the many in Web-related retail, explained William Sirois, a senior vice president at Circadian, in a phone interview. It doesn't count the more- conventional firms thought to be pushing for long hours, he added.

That may sound ominous to the kind of worker who cheerfully stays late when a project demands it - but still counts on getting out to coach soccer two nights a week.

If all-hours operations become the norm, will more workers be asked to pull late shifts out of a corporate sense of egalitarianism?

Dotcommers made all-nighters look like the formula for New Economy domination. But executives at some not-coms are said to be declining the electronic "leash" wireless technology offers. One salvo in the defense of downtime.

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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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