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Home Work Time

Why are we working more and spending less time at home? Arlie Hochschild has discovered some suprising reasons.

In her latest book, The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1997), UC Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild takes a detective's eye to the problem of what's keeping parents at work so long. What she discovered were men and women apparently happily married to their jobs and not the least inclined to take advantage of family-friendly company policies -- programs that would have allowed employees to spend more time at home.

Hochschild, who made waves with The Second Shift -- her groundbreaking 1989 book on gender roles in two-career marriages -- this time spent three summers observing employees of a Fortune 500 company she calls "Amerco" to protect the privacy of those she studied. She chose the Northeastern manufacturer precisely for its reputation as a good place for parents to work: A 1991 survey by the Families and Work Institute named it one of the 10 most family-friendly companies in the U.S.

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After visiting company-sponsored childcare centers, tagging along on errands with stressed-out, upper-management moms, and interviewing employees in all sectors of the company -- from "Bill," a high-ranking corporate executive, to "Becky," a factory-line worker -- Hochschild discovered myriad ways in which the home is being invaded by the pressures of work, while the workplace is becoming a haven from a hectic, unrewarding home life. Her findings offer eloquent, sad, and sometimes chilling evidence of the "time bind" many employees find themselves in and, more broadly, suggest a disturbing cultural transformation in the way Americans feel about home, family, work, and even time itself.

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