Wednesday Workfacts: Like You Didn’t Already Know These Facts!

We’re two decades into the 21st century, and the way we do work has changed substantially from previous decades. In the past, limited technology meant that what we did was more directly tied into a wage-per-item concept of work. What you made or did determined your wage in a direct way. Manufacturing, agriculture, and the office commute were the mainstays.

But no more.

Changes in technology, a shift in the culture, and financial challenges have shifted both the kind of work we do and the way we do it. What does work in the 21st century look like, for the worker, for the bank account, and for society? Here are a few facts:

Workers are working longer than before.

Americans are working longer than ever now, with much more of their week is claimed by work instead of by free time.

If you thought technology would make life easier, and allow us to spend less time working, it looks like you were wrong. Around the turn of the 21st century, Americans were working, on average, about 47 hours a week. Though it’s held steady for the past 14 years, that’s almost a full work-day more than what a typical 40-hour work week would entail.

But this isn’t all bad news. How we work now has changed (telecommuting, mobile devices, etc.), and that has made that extra time each week seem like much less.

Workers are retiring at a later age.

No only are Americans working longer each week, but they are retiring a bit later.

Gallup has been polling workers on this retirement question since 1991, and they’ve learned a few interesting contrasts about retirement expectations and retirement realities.

Most Americans expect to retire at age 66, but on average, actually retire earlier at age 62. However, in the early 1990s, people were retiring at around age 57 even though they had similar higher-age expectations. So while our expectations haven’t changed much, the actual retirement age has increased as we’ve moved into the 21st century.

Expectations vary based on if you’re a young worker or an older worker.

Younger Americans expect to retire around age 55, but as they get older (and perhaps understand the financial realities of retirement), their expectations change and fall more in line with those initial numbers, expecting retirement around age 65. These retirement expectations have remained fairly steady into the 21st century.

What’s behind this slow but steady rise in the retirement age? Part of it is a troubled economy that forces workers to stay employed longer out of financial need, but part of it is that some baby boomers just don’t want to retire yet, choosing instead to work longer.

There’s a new job: the data scientist.

The end of the 20th century was the start of the information age. As the 21st century picked up steam, all of that information (some might say information glut) meant the rise of big data on everything from customer behavior on social sites or geo-location habits. This data meant that the need for data scientists grew quite rapidly.

This is such new territory that the term data scientist  is relatively new, coined by leading social media team members in 2008. You’ll find these data scientists in startups and established businesses, and they are so in need that there is a shortage. Why?

Businesses are drowning in massive amounts of data and they need people who know how to interpret it correctly.

The top industries have changed.

In the U.S., the top industries have changed from the end of the 20th century to now. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top industries were manufacturing and retail. By 2013, healthcare (which had barely registered in the 1990’s) was by far the top industry. As our population ages, the healthcare industry will continue to grow.

What industries will face significant decline?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing, postal workers, and publishers of newspapers, books, and periodicals are going to dwindle. That’s quite a flip, from one century to another.

Mobile connectivity at work leads to stress.

If you’ve been in the workforce for several ye4ars, you probably feel more sreess today that when you staRTED YUOUR career – and you’re ot alone.

Workers in the U.S. who spend time outside of work connected to email or working remotely on their off time  experience heavier amounts of stress than workers who don’t. Almost 50 percent of workers who frequently respond to work email on their own time reported experiencing stress. Compare this to those who don’t participate in that kind of behavior; only 36 percent claim that kind of stress.

Oddly, those same high-stress workers rate their highly connected lives as better.

What’s the driving force behind stressful connectivity? Employers in the 21st century expect it now that it’s possible. 62 percent of workers who say their employers expect them to be available on their mobile device outside of work say they spend a lot of time emailing during those off hours.

  Excerpted from the  “When I Work Blog” at, by Julie Neidinger