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Remarks by Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor Province of Saskatchewan Canadian Institute of Management National Conference Saskatoon - June 21, 1991.

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity to join you for part of your National Conference. On behalf of the people of Saskatchewan I want to extend a warm welcome to all the participants, especially those of you visiting us from across Canada. I hope you will enjoy your brief stay here in Saskatoon and that you will have a chance to visit some of the attractions the city has to offer.

In thinking about a suitable topic for my remarks this morning, I looked at your Conference theme, "Bridging the Gap", and I noted that the Institute includes members from a wide range of public and private sector enterprises.

I also noted that your program included an environmental field assessment and a seminar in the workplace. It seemed to me, therefore, that I might talk to you about a number of related topics which I think are important to our career and personal success as individuals and also to our future success as a society in Canada. Hence the title for my address: "Education, Work Habits, and Lifestyles".

An area which I have established as one of my personal priorities during my term as Lieutenant Governor is Education - at all levels, in all its many forms, and for all sectors of the population.

My special focus has been on education of our young people, because I consider that so critical to the future of individual citizens and of our society as a whole. To date I have visited with literally thousands of pupils in schools all around our province.

I have spoken with them about the importance of setting clear personal goals in life and of making a commitment to achieving those goals. And I have emphasized the necessity of completing their education so that they will have the knowledge and skills to succeed.

As managers, you know as well as anyone that a sound, complete education is more important today than at any time in the past and will certainly continue to be so in the future. We are living in an era which is described in such terms as the information age, the age of the global economy, and the post-industrial era. If we as Canadians are to be successful in this world, both individually and collectively, then our young people are going to need all the education they can get.

Let me illustrate this point with a recent statement by Dr. Willard Daggett, an educator writing in a house magazine of IBM Canada. I think it sums up the situation quite well.

"As Canada moves toward an economy with a technological based work force, unskilled labour will not be a viable economic commodity when compared to technologically based labour or to the low labour costs in third-world countries. Real economic growth in Canada depends more now on a highly trained work force that at any time in the past." He went on to say:

"Few new jobs will be created for those who cannot read, follow directions, use math and compute. The fastest growing job opportunities will be in the professional, managerial, technical, administrative, and sales fields, which require the highest education and skill levels. Low skilled opportunities for the undereducated continue to decline in every area of the economy. Canadian business has an acute need for highly trained workers to fill the types of jobs being created."

I think these are statements which many of you could confirm and support from your own experience. In particular, I think you would agree that no matter what profession we work in, no matter what the work setting, technology is playing an ever-increasing role.

In the industrial sector, more and more jobs are being done by robot machinery. In health care, technology has led to tremendous advances in diagnosis, in surgery and other treatment, and in rehabilitation. The examples are endless.

To be successful, in the future individuals will have to be technologically literate. They will have to understand technology and know how to use it to take advantage of the many opportunities and benefits it creates.

There is no question that technology affects all of us - in the home, in the workplace, no matter where we are or what we do. And it is true that if we are to remain competitive as a country in the global economy, we will have to use technology extensively and intelligently.

But this, I think, is the critical point. We must ensure that we use technology in ways that we as human beings, both individually and collectively, decide are most appropriate. Technology must be our servant, not our master. That is where the question of work habits comes in, and it is the topic on which I want to focus now for a few minutes.

In this context, I am referring more specifically to the kinds of technology that are becoming normal features of the workplace for more and more people - personal computers, fax machines, cellular telephones, and so on.

I expect most of you use these devices some degree. And there is no question that they all have undoubted benefits. They can help us to carry out necessary tasks more quickly, easily, and accurately.

However, I think we have to be very careful to ensure that we do not get carried away and allow these devices to dictate our lives. As I said earlier, we have to ensure that we remain the master of technology, not become its slave. Let me give you some examples of what I mean.

Cellular phones can be very useful to people whose work requires them to travel extensively away from their home office. And they are undoubtedly a good safety feature in cases where a driver experiences car troubles or sudden health problems in an isolated area.

However, there are limits. Is it wise to be driving down the highway at 100 kilometers an hour with only one hand on the wheel and our minds on the conversation we are holding rather than on the road? And in city driving, which requires our constant attention, can we afford to be distracted by a ringing phone?

Cellular phones do have the advantage of making it easier for human beings to communicate directly with each other. Other communication devices such as fax machines also facilitate exchange, but it is of an impersonal variety.

In years gone by, two people would have got together in person or at least spoken on the phone if they had issues to discuss. Today, it seems, that discussion often takes the form of sending messages back and forth by fax.

If all that is involved is the transmittal of data or other information, the speed and convenience are all to the good. But when it comes to more complex matters that call for judgement and decisions, I wonder whether we sometimes lose in quality what we gain in speed.

As we respond to the electronic pressures to return our comments or answer by fax as quickly as possible, do we still take all the time to think the issue through as fully as we should? Do we risk jumping to conclusions or making hasty decisions?

And can we afford to do that when our decisions can often have significant consequences for ourselves, our colleagues, and those to whom we provide services?

Let me turn to one more example of how technology can affect our work habits. The personal computers has been a boon to many people working in technical, professional, and managerial positions. It allows us to make productive use of time such as when we are waiting in airports, out of town on business and so on.

But here again I think we have to be careful. When the computer can help us to make productive use of otherwise wasted time, it is valuable. When it enables us to work out of our own homes during regular hours instead of travelling to and from an office every day, the benefits are obvious. But when it becomes a constant companion, day and night seven days a week, I think we have a problem because we are simply doing more and more work during longer and longer hours.

I would not want to leave you with the impression that I harbour a feeling of nostalgia for the days before all this technology existed or that I wish we could somehow turn back the clock. On the contrary, I think many of the developments have already demonstrated their value and that continued research and development in technology must continue to be an integral part of our endeavours. My point is simply that we must maintain a balanced perspective in order to ensure maximum benefits with a minimum of undesirable side effects.

So far I have talked about the importance of education to the future of our society. I have emphasized the need for young people to develop an awareness of technology and an understanding of its potential benefits and its other implications. And I have spoken about some of the positive and negative aspects of technology as it affects our work habits. I want to turn now to my third general theme - Lifestyles. And of course I want to tie that theme to this ideas I have been discussing to this point.

We have to be careful that we do not become so wrapped up in being productive and competitive, so concerned about working harder and more efficiently, that we lose our perspective on life. When we think about our own work habits and when we talk to young people about education, we have to remember that we are not robots but human beings. We cannot keep working an indefinite number of hours on all day of the week. To put it another way, we all need time in our lives for leisure and laughter.

It is interesting that we often talk about a vacation or even a long weekend as being an opportunity to recharge our batteries, as though we were in fact some type of machine that could simply be plugged in. We all know what the expression means in a general sense, but I think it over-simplifies some important points about the way we lead our lives on a regular basis.

It is very easy these days to become so caught up in our work that we allow it to dictate our lives. I think we need to be very careful not to get caught in that trap.

We are not robots who can go on working in exactly the same way, at exactly the same rate, day after day, week after week. We are individual human beings with complex emotional and spiritual needs.

Leisure isn't something we can just fit in whenever we have a few spare hours. It must be an integral part of our lives. And personally I don't think we can benefit fully from leisure time if we spend it in the company of office technology that could interrupt us at any moment with messages or tempt us to be doing something work-related.

I am no psychologist, but it seems to me that we are bound to experience greater levels of stress and fatigue, not to mention long term physical effects, if we do not have adequate regular opportunities to escape completely from the work environment. This point was brought home to me by a recent article in the well-known international paper, THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN WEEKLY. It was an article about Japanese Managers.

Japan is often held out as an example of an efficient and productive society. And the success of Japanese students on standardized tests is often cited by educators.

But the article in question shows a different side of the picture. It deals with the case of a company manager who died in his mid-forties. Let me quote some of the key statements:

"His employer implicitly acknowledged that the death of the executive was not unrelated to excessive fatigue when it paid the family $250,000 in compensation.

Irrespective of the outcome of the claim, it is a significant reminder of a sad fact of life in Japan. By western standards, the Japanese are thought to work much too hard. And some of them literally work themselves to death."

That is indeed a frightening scenario. And while we work in less harmful ways, I do think we have to be careful about the pressures to keep increasing productivity and efficiency. As I said a minute ago, we are all individual human beings, with our own individual strengths and weaknesses.

A certain level of physical exertion and mental stress may be good for us, but we have to recognize our limits and remain with them.

I think that the importance of leisure is something we must teach young people along with all the essential academic subjects. We must encourage them to develop an interest in sports and hobbies. And we must foster whatever creative and artistic aptitudes they might exhibit.

From time to time we all enjoy the opportunity to sit back and relax and do nothing that is mentally or physically taxing - as the current phrase has it, to be a "couch potato". That is fine, but we can't spend all our leisure time this way.

We need leisure activities which challenge and stimulate us or provide an outlet for our creative talents. Certainly I know from my own experience that my leisure interests have contributed in many ways to my enjoyment of life.

I think it is unfortunate that in the past many people did not develop hobbies or other leisure pursuits, while they were young. Of course, many simply did not have the opportunity to do so. But the results can be devastating when we grow older and no longer have the responsibilities of a family or a job to occupy us.

As I say, I think the ideal approach is for us to encourage young people to become involved in a sport, craft, or other leisure activity at an early age. And I think we should focus particularly on activities which can be carried on throughout most of a lifetime.

Sports such as football and basketball have their place in schools, but I think we have to ask ourselves how many pupils are likely to continue with such sports beyond the school or university level, compared to the number who could enjoy a lifetime of recreation in golf, curling, tennis, and so on. Encouraging young people to develop constructive leisure pastimes is important as an end in itself, but of course there are indirect benefits.

Many of the skills which can be learned through leisure activities - such as initiative, perseverance, teamwork, and logical planning - are the same skills needed to be successful in a career.

What we are really talking about, then, is the development of fully rounded individuals who are in a position to enjoy their private lives while engaged in a rewarding career and contributing in a positive way to society.

It is all a question of a reasonable and effective balance, a balance which will result in a society that is successful in an economic sense while still being healthy from the social, moral, and spiritual perspectives.

As managers, I am sure you encounter lifestyle problems and issues in your daily work - not just the usual issue such as diet or physical fitness but the more general issues associated with the way people lead their lives.

And I am sure you encounter difficulties in trying to achieve a balance for yourselves between the way you carry out your need to spend time constructively away from those responsibilities.

I hope that in my remarks this morning I have been able to give you some food for thought about the relationships between education, work habits, and lifestyles. The ideas themselves might not be especially profound, but they are ones I think we need to consider from time to time as we deal with the priorities and pressures in our daily lives.

In closing, I want to thank you again for inviting me to join you this morning. I hope you will find the remainder of your conference informative and thought-provoking and that you will also take advantage of the chance to share ideas and experiences with your professional colleagues from across Canada. Best wishes to all of you for future success in your professional careers and your personal lives.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Canadian Institute of Management
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sylvia O. Fedoruk
Publication:Canadian Manager
Article Type:Transcript
Date:Sep 22, 1991
Words:2749
Previous Article:Tips to conduct a successful teleconference.
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