Paul Butler: Hard workers

Paul Butler
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I had mixed feelings last week when I read an article in our local newspaper about the city I live in — Santa Clarita, California. According to Kempler Industries we’ve been recognized as the 12th hardest working city in the nation. Their research was based on studying data from the U.S. Census Bureau from 200 cities that had a population of 150,000 or greater.

As I pondered each of the metrics, I ask myself if our ranking should be considered “good” when we consider the technological age we’re living in. Is working hard the same as working smart? Should the measurements be different when we consider employees and entrepreneurs? Let’s reason this through based on the metrics Kempler used — it shouldn’t be too hard work.

Average commute time: We earned a gold star because our average commute time is 35 minutes and so I assume that’s about an hour a day. Is that really a good result though? On average that’s 231 hours a year of unproductive time commuting to and from a place of work. We can most likely double or even triple that number for my fellow Claritians who commute to Downtown Los Angeles and beyond. Can we do more through the city’s economic development efforts to attract more businesses with high-paying jobs up into Santa Clarita so we can break the stereotype of us being a “bedroom community somewhere near Magic Mountain”?

Average workweek hours: We earned another gold star here, as our average workweek is 38.4 hours. I am actually very pleased to see this, as I believe we were designed to work. If we’re working about eight hours a day that should in theory allow us eight hours of leisure time and eight hours of sleep. I’m just not sure whom they polled, though, as I know many people who work more than 38.4 hours a week and hence few people who enjoy eight hours of leisure a day. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who gets eight hours of sleep a day.

Percentage of workforce population aged 16-64: Our results earned us a third gold star here with 64%. I assume the reason it’s less than 100% is because a large portion of 16- to 22-year-olds wouldn’t be regarded as being in the workforce if they’re full-time students. I also assume it’s because some people managed to earn and save enough to be able to retire from the workforce population before the age of 64.

Percentage of senior workforce aged 65 and up: We earned more good points here because more than 20% of our seniors are apparently still in the workforce. I don’t know whether that means working full-time, part-time or on a voluntary basis, but either way 20% of our beloved seniors are still working in some capacity. I have mixed feelings about this measure. On one hand I’d hope to not to have to work after age 65 financially, but on the other hand, I do see how working beyond traditional retirement age can sustain a vitality in people much more than those I see who do nothing other than take perpetual vacations and play a lot of golf. I have noticed a spring in the step within seniors who still serve others (for the dollar or not) that I simply don’t see in the retired — it’s almost as if atrophy sets in if we sit too still.

Percentage of unused vacation days: I ask myself if this should be deemed a “good” measure as we scored a whopping 31%. Did you catch that? We’re getting Brownie points on the Kempler scale for leaving 31% of our vacation days on the table. Why should that be a good thing and be applauded? My observation is that employees who are well rested and take their full vacation make a better contribution in the long run than those who are burned out by being shackled to their workplace. I’ve also observed that ineffective employees can be very inefficient because exhaustion shows in much lower quality of work. We’re human “beings” not human “doings.” We’re not robots — we must take time to recharge and rejuvenate

In summary, I believe we should be proud to be recognized as a hard-working city but I suggest not all the measurements used are something that should be celebrated or applauded.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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