THE TIME BIND
JUNE 27, 1997
David Gergen speaks with sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild about the whirlwind workplace infringing on home life in her book The Time Bind: When Work Becomes home and Home Becomes Work.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: David Gergen, editor at large of "U.S. News & World Report," engages Arlie Russell Hochschild, professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work.
DAVID GERGEN, U.S. News & World Report: Arlie, in your new book, you investigate the tensions that a growing number of Americans feel between the demands of the workplace and the needs of family. Can you tell us about them.
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD, Author, The Time Bind: Yes. I think weíre faced with a new situation. Our attention is usually brought to looking at the competition between American companies and Japanese or German companies, but less often are we asked to look at the competition between American companies and American homes. And I think itís a very important form of competition that goes on in the currency of time, and homes are losing.
Time is being sucked out of homes and pumped into work--not for everybody--but for a lot of people and for a lot of parents. And itís something thatís crept up on us, and I think it sets up a certain cycle that people spend a lot of time at work; they go home to time-starved relationships; and that adds an extra strain, which makes it a little more tempting to go back to home. And all of this is going on and is facilitated by a kind of a new ball game. The village has gone to work. And on top of the village is built a kind of organization of work, where itís a little clearer when youíre doing well and when youíre not.
DAVID GERGEN: What do you mean by the village going to work?
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: Well, I mean that most peopleís friends and even relatives are at work, and if you go home, a lot of people have neighbors but not neighborhoods. So when I ask people that I interview--managers, clerical workers, and production workers--where is it you have your friends, you know, where do you talk over problems that you may have at home? At work.
DAVID GERGEN: They--just to make sure viewers have a full sense of this, you spent three summers at a Fortune 500 company in the Midwest, a corporation that goes unnamed in the book, talking to the workers there.
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: Yes, thatís right. Thatís right. And I followed workers around. I observed parking lots when cars came and went during what time of day and observed meetings at the workplace. Very often, people were able to make their total quality meeting at work but couldnít have a collective dinner at home. So thatís kind of a ritualization of work life and de-ritualization of home life, not by anybodyís intent. This isnít something that some giant guy in the sky has made up, or that people, themselves, are architects of in some self-conscious way, but a lot of workers would say to me, you know, we do it to ourselves; we do it to ourselves.
DAVID GERGEN: Well, as you say in the book, weíve known for a long time that men feel theyíre in that cycle where the work is very demanding, and the shortchange the home. But you say the big news--in your words--the big news here is about women. Tell us about that.
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: Well, women have gone to work, and mostly because they have, also because for many women, they want to, and yet, the workplaces that theyíre going to work at, many of them are kind of workaholic cults. You get there and youíre in a cultural world. Itís the village plus, the village plus a lot of incentives and so this is happening to women as much as men. Also, a lot of women, when they go home, theyíre married to men who havenít got the idea that itís--half the job is theirs at home. And so as soon as she gets home, it all falls to her, the responsibility.
One woman worked on a production line, described coming home. She said, "I come home. The minute I put the key in the door, whammo, itís all on me, because he considers heís babysitting." So a lot of women, to escape that, are actually going to work because when theyíre at work, their husbands do the work at home. So thatís kind of an unresolved issue at home.
DAVID GERGEN: Right. But the controversy of your book has come because you found that a significant--not a majority--the significant minority--a growing minority of women were actually finding the workplace more appealing than home. One of the women you talked to said, "I relax at work."
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: A lot of women said that.
DAVID GERGEN: You say theyíre in a cycle. They find themselves in a cycle.
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: Thatís right. And one out of five of the men and women that I interviewed fit that pattern, I would say, of finding that being at work was where they were most appreciated. I asked people, well, where do you feel the most appreciated, and they would say, well, you know, itís at work. When you go home, itís a little less clear what the job is, itís a little less clear what your--when youíre doing a good job. One man said to me, "Well, you know, when Iím at work, if Iím doing things right chances are Iím getting a pat on the back from my supervisor. If Iím doing things right at home, chances are my kids are giving me hell for it."
DAVID GERGEN: But thereís a cycle here because the--the hours demanded by the work leave less hours for home and then the home place seems to be more chaotic, and people then find a retreat back to work.
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: There is--underneath this--and this is what this book is--Iíve written a storybook about peopleís lives, and in this--in these stories is a story of time and how people experience time--something we often step back and look at but I think itís important to do; that the kind of way we think about time, a cult of efficiency, saving time, investing time, the Benjamin Franklin, that gold bullion of time, way of looking at time. Time is money. That work-oriented way of time, itís in a way skipped over the fence and come home, and itís as if weíre trying to save time at home.
DAVID GERGEN: If people are starved for time, what should we do about it?
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: What we should do about is first of all gather concerned people together into what I would hope would turn out to be a time movement.
DAVID GERGEN: Like the environmental movement, like the womenís rights movement, civil rights.
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: Thatís right. Exactly And just the way we wanted to clean up the environment so that we have a trash-free environment, so we want to recover our time. You know, we can ask who made these workplaces up, do they fit the work force that is there now? And so thereís a lot that I think we can do, and there are a lot of models, both abroad and in the United States for what we can do if we look at Norway with its 35-hour work week, if we look at Sweden, a vast majority of fathers taking paternity leave, paid paternity leave, another half take another leave within the first two years of the childís life. You know, letís raise our sights. Thatís possible for us.
And right in the United States there are lots of models. Like for work sharing, for example, I looked at a company where the CEO was thinking because market share had dropped he would have to furlough 10 percent of his workers, but, instead of doing that, he put it up to a vote to all his workers. Should we lay off 10 percent, or should everybody, top to bottom, take Friday afternoons off? The vote came back, letís all take Friday afternoons off, time and pay.
And at the end of the year, they discovered two things: One, productivity hadnít declined. In fact, it had risen slightly. So hours werenít that wired to productivity to begin with And secondly, when he offered them their time and money back, they didnít want to take it.
DAVID GERGEN: Arlie Russell Hochschild, Iím afraid weíve run out of time. Thank you very much.
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: Thank you.