Recession forces workers to reassess values

NEW YORK Fri Oct 22, 2010 9:37am EDT

Zachary Frantzen (L) prays with his family before dinner in Longmont, Colorado July 19, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Zachary Frantzen (L) prays with his family before dinner in Longmont, Colorado July 19, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Job losses, home foreclosures and financial worries have forced Americans to reassess their values, including the importance of family and the emphasis they put on work.

Many want a more balanced life with less stress and more time with loved ones.

"I broke my back for this company, missed my kids growing up, and for what? Nothing!" said a 48-old unemployed man.

The disgruntled former manager was one of 1,100 workers questioned in a Florida State University study about the impact of the recession on their lives and priorities.

Nearly half said the worst financial downturn since the 1930s had increased their appreciation of family, and a similar number admitted it had helped them recognize the importance of people over things.

"The most telling part of this, and the one that offered the greatest level of variability in responses, what they felt most strongly about, was the issue of family," said Wayne Hochwarter, a professor of business studies at the university who conducted the study.

"That is an important component of life that is so easy to neglect because you have to make a living. And in a lot of families both mom and dad have to make a living."

Hochwarter described the financial downturn as a "wakeup call" for many people who thought they were doing what was best for their family, but who now question the choices they made.

Nearly 40 percent of workers admitted the job was not as important to them now as it once was, and 23 percent realized they had put it ahead of family and free time.

More than 70 percent of workers said most days at work it felt like the day would never end.

Hochwarter and his team, research associates Tyler Everett and Stuart Tapley, also found the impact of the recession was different on men and women.

While men thought their job was not giving them what they thought it would and left them feeling stressed and like they were going nowhere, women felt their job was taking them further and further away from their family.

"They could feel this distancing effect with other aspects of their life," Hochwarter said. "The end result may be the same but perhaps the avenues are a bit different."

He hopes people's reassessment of their priorities will have a lasting impact and lead to more balanced lives with reasonable working hours and fewer intrusions on free time.

But Hochwarter is doubtful it will last.

"I'm fearful that the advent of technology will make it harder and harder for people to stay away from work."

(Editing by Steve Addison)

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