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Technology is helping companies further blur the lines between work and life

These days, the proliferation of various technological advances are worsening a problem in the corporate world -- lengthening work hours. IT teams are no stranger to being on call 24/7/365.  Since the platforms they support are expected to be online all the time, they must be prepared to respond in the event of a crisis. But more and more this is being passed on to the other departments in most corporations. Employees all across the company are being expected to be on call, available, or even work regularly after normal scheduled business hours usually without any compensation whatsoever.

Recently laptops are replacing desktops as the standard computer in most organizations. Laptops provide employees with the ability to work from home as well as in the office. This is generally a great thing if you want to telecommute but it comes with a catch. After 5pm when you go home, your boss might still email you or assign you a task that needs to be completed knowing that you can do it from home just as well as you could at work.

The proliferation of Blackberries and other devices are also helping the problem spiral out of control. The days of being able to take a vacation and get away from work, are coming to an end for many. Even while on vacation you are expected to check your email and answer that Blackberry should it ring. Failure to do so could result in penalties when you return to the office.

In the last few years, though a new device has been marketed which provides the ability to get internet anywhere. These air cards as they call them are add-on cards that connect to existing laptops or can be integrated directly into newer model laptops. This always-on internet is providing employees with the ability to connect into the office and work while on the road.

For those that travel often, this is certainly a nice thing, it causes problems when managers start requiring people with air card access to be on and working, outside regular business hours. Air cards are being issued to many in management, and anyone else companies want to be able to work at a moments notice from any location. The caveat is that the employee must keep both their laptop and air card on them at all times.

To top it off, many businesses are promoting their commitment to work life balance but the 40 hour work week has turned into a 60 hour work week and thats at a minimum. With companies constantly pushing to do more work with fewer employees, many employees are having to work after normal work hours to meet deadlines. Many do not receive Overtime Pay since they are not hourly employees. Many are still eligible as they are listed as "non-exempt" meaning under the current set of laws they should be compensated for overtime regardless. This is further complicated by the debate between what is and isn't classified as work.

This problem is only expected to get worse as companies look for new ways to squeeze more work out of employees in an increasingly competitive market.


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The Biggest problem...
By Radnor on 9/16/2008 10:23:23 AM , Rating: 2
..is that governments seem to be blind in this matter. At the moment i can't complain because my work hours are strictly controlled. But this work is more the exception, than the rule.

The last few years, having 80/90 hours week wasn't a big deal.Was usual. Controls can be scrambled by employers and all is business as usual. The thing is,imho, employers ignore burnout or even fatigue. If you want creative workers you need to let them play. Google, Youtube and others show that line of though with a very successful strategy.

The thing is, and ive passed by it, and i see more and more people that i life with passing it. Its the burnout. Your so burnout of the situation (like those 2 Aussies, that busted a nut) or just drop everything off. The latter is the correct choice, but ive seen companies reeling when people just drop everything unannounced. That brings a bit of chaos in the chain of command, and depending on the person/function can disrupt (even if only daily) and bring sometimes very large indirect losses. Of course most people only concerns about direct losses, never considering learning curves, adaptation times, etc.

I guess the latter must happen enough times, and with enough frequency so companies look at them as a prejudice, and not as a way to improve performance. I can talk by myself, that already passed by it, and in the end the company suffered the worse of it.

Anyway, point taken, governments should enforce labor laws. And make companies follow them. They can bring a hell of social problems that are now only surfacing, like "key childs", low birth tax, and much..much more.

Time will tell.




RE: The Biggest problem...
By arazok on 9/16/2008 11:18:38 AM , Rating: 4
Why does the government need to rescue you from your employer? If you feel they are overburdening you, demand reasonable treatment or go find a job somewhere else.

I work for a company that asks I work a 36.5 hour work week for a great salary, and demands overtime in only the most exceptional of situations. I’ve returned the good treatment with over 9 years of dedicated service.

How did I get a job like this? #1, I got an education, and I have skills which are difficult to find so employers tend not to take me for granted. And #2, I demanded it. I worked for employers who treated me like crap (even with my skills), and I left them.

What’s the difference between you and I? Your life is what others make it. My life is what I make it.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Radnor on 9/16/2008 11:33:48 AM , Rating: 2
You missed part of my post. I work 39 Hours per week atm. This employer gives decent formation, and cares quite a bit.

There are several employers as you mentioned it, and we do pick it. I have a superior degree as well, and i usually tend to pick my jobs. The thing is, few companies adopt the logic or managing like the one i am now. As you said in your post, you are now for 9 years. I left my old "job" in 10 months. The average worker there didn't last for more than two years.

The government doesn't need to save me from my job, i work in IT it is fairly safe. But many other different business needs to be inspected by the government. You would be surprised by the lack of safety in most companies. And im European, where safety laws are quite strict.

Ive it wasn't for the government, unions, and, as you said very well, the level of education of the workers, we would still be in Industrial Revolution times.

Like we see in China. Were they never get late to work, they live in their work. Does that sound like balanced to you ?


RE: The Biggest problem...
By arazok on 9/16/2008 11:52:02 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Like we see in China. Were they never get late to work, they live in their work. Does that sound like balanced to you ?


From the perspective of someone who works 9-5 and owns a car and a house, no.

From the perspective of someone who toils in a field somewhere for 16 hours a day just to feed themselves, it’s a major improvement.

Everything is relative. China is building the foundation’s of an industrial society. As more people move to the factories, they will demand better wages and treatment. Eventually, they will enjoy working conditions similar to what we have here. The rules of supply and demand dictate that as China exhausts it’s supply of labor, labor will demand, and get, better treatment…. with or without government and unions.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Radnor on 9/16/2008 11:58:37 AM , Rating: 1
I see ithere is a problem there in the US with government unions. Well, in Europe there aren't usually such things as big unions become, in the long run, money sucking associations. But yes, what we see in china is what we saw in Europe about 200-150 years ago.

Again lets wait and see.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By masher2 (blog) on 9/16/2008 1:15:46 PM , Rating: 5
> "But yes, what we see in china is what we saw in Europe about 200-150 years ago"

It's the natural progression, part of the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society. It wasn't the government that improved working conditions-- it was rising productivity and competition for workers. The first standardized 8-hour workday and the first perks like employer-supplied health insurance didn't come from government mandates... they arose from companies attempting to win and hold scarce skilled workers.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By amanojaku on 9/16/2008 12:20:38 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Why does the government need to rescue you from your employer? If you feel they are overburdening you, demand reasonable treatment or go find a job somewhere else.

I agree with your feeling; I've quit or resigned from jobs because I felt the working conditions were poor and would never improve. In some cases I was wrong, but my choices helped define my current self. Which is why I think I can say finding another job isn't always so easy. For one thing, jobs you are qualified for and can live off of have to EXIST. Even when they do government oversight can be a blessing. The government is sometimes necessary as businesses large and small begin to take advantage of employees if left uncontrolled. The idea that businesses will learn from their mistakes is silly since human beings run them. Which also means employees will try to take advantage of the employer. It's a fine balance to which everyone has to contribute.

quote:
How did I get a job like this? #1, I got an education, and I have skills which are difficult to find so employers tend not to take me for granted. And #2, I demanded it. I worked for employers who treated me like crap (even with my skills), and I left them.

Again, I agree with your feeling, but the reality is different. Not everyone has the courage or skill to negotiate, and that leads to problems down the road. All employees, no matter their worth on the food chain, deserve to work in a relaxed, positive and focused environment. It may not be possible to make this a company standard, but as an employee this can be achieved. Negotiate! This is the skill that has helped me achieve my current level of career success despite my lack of a college degree. At the age of 30 I perform duties with the equivalent responsibilities and compensation of people 10 and 15 years older.

quote:
What’s the difference between you and I? Your life is what others make it. My life is what I make it.

Once more, I agree with your feeling, but let reality set it for a moment. Some things you can't control, or control easily. In my travels I've come across cities and towns so poor that people can't afford to leave. It's a big event for someone to make it to the local city, and an achievement worthy of a parade to get to LA or New York. Location, after determination, is the number one factor to facilitating a person's career. You rarely heard of successful people outside of major cities because the opportunities did not exist prior to the Internet. It's still too new of a medium to eliminate the advantages of location, but someday...


RE: The Biggest problem...
By masher2 (blog) on 9/16/2008 1:19:18 PM , Rating: 1
> " All employees, no matter their worth on the food chain, deserve to work in a relaxed, positve, and focused environment"

Be sure to tell those in the military, police, firefighting, and emergency rescue professions they deserve a relaxed environment.

As for "positive" and "focused", those terms are a bit open to interpretation...but the only thing people "deserve" is what's written in the Constitution. Anything else is simply a matter of free choice. If you don't like the job offer, find another one.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By masher2 (blog) on 9/16/2008 1:10:05 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Why does the government need to rescue you from your employer? If you feel they are overburdening you, demand reasonable treatment or go find a job somewhere else.
Hear, hear. The last thing we need is more government meddling in the IT marketplace. A few well-intentioned but pudding-headed government rules and regulations will vastly accelerate the pace of offshoring to nations with more sensible policies.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By arazok on 9/16/2008 2:47:55 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. Every regulation is created with the best of intentions, but with regulation comes rigidity.

Recently in Canada our PM toured some manufacturing facilities along the US border. One of those factories made jelly beans. The owner was interviewed in a local paper and said that the biggest drag on his business were regulations on packaging.
The rules for jelly bean contents are different in Canada than the United States. They have to maintain two separate inventories. The packaging disclosure requirements in each country are different and separate calculations of similar items, such as percentage of daily nutritional intake, have to be made. That means different packages for each country, smaller production runs and higher costs.
These regulations were created in the interest of the consumer, but you end up driving up costs and accomplishing nothing. You still get a jelly bean.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Gzus666 on 9/16/2008 2:52:37 PM , Rating: 3
Not to split hairs here or anything, but doesn't that come down to Canada and the US not working to use the same standards, rather than the laws themselves? I hardly think forcing them to tell you what is in their product, and the nutrition information is a bad thing, mainly cause people have allergies, or strict intakes they have to follow, etc.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By arazok on 9/16/2008 3:22:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Not to split hairs here or anything, but doesn't that come down to Canada and the US not working to use the same standards, rather than the laws themselves?


Yes, the jelly bean company was pushing for harmonization of those rules. My view is that if nobody had created any regulations in the first place, there would never have been a problem.

quote:
I hardly think forcing them to tell you what is in their product, and the nutrition information is a bad thing, mainly cause people have allergies, or strict intakes they have to follow, etc.


Again, regulations are always created with the best of intentions. In some cases, they are a necessary evil to serve the public good. In most cases, they do the opposite. How did people with food allergies cope before governments regulated packaging?


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Gzus666 on 9/16/2008 3:28:44 PM , Rating: 2
I assume that they guess the best they can, and if they are wrong, they die, or have a horrible reaction. I will surely concede many of these things are ridiculous, but I think this would just be a poor example. I have a feeling if you had a food allergy, you would be praising it, rather than discounting it. And I'm pretty sure if they weren't required to put it on there, they wouldn't, which could be bad for many people. I'm not a huge fan of government intervention in most every situation, but that is just one that won't self regulate very well.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By barclay on 9/16/2008 8:49:58 PM , Rating: 2
> And I'm pretty sure if they weren't required to put it on there, they wouldn't, which could be bad for many people.

I disagree. If consumers desire nutritional information, the market will provide. I can almost guarantee that food manufacturers targeting health conscious consumers would continue to provide this information. To the others... if they want people with known allergies to buy their product they will continue as well.
Even if some manufacturers do not do this, retailers and independent certification companies will likely step up to fill the void. Who knows, these 3rd party companies might even be better at informing the consumer than the current way.

The point is, the regulations are unnecessary -- the market is more than capable of encouraging this behavior where it is desirable. And as others have already indicated, the regulations add rigidity that raise costs and discourage innovation.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Ringold on 9/16/2008 3:51:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
How did people with food allergies cope before governments regulated packaging?


They died?

Anyway, as far as labor laws go, we need only to look at France. They have the glorious 35 hour workweek, and what's it done for them? Unemployment didn't fall below 8% for 27 years, only recently dipping below it. Spent much of those nearly 3 decades above 10%. Given the falling economic indicators throughout the Eurozone, unemployment has bottomed and it's probably going to be back above 10% before long.

Democrats already think the economy is a wreck; they don't know what a wrecked economy is until they've seen the results of their ideological counterparts across the pond.

Besides, the market is already responding. Don't know about all of you, but I've seen a lot of managers and recruiters singing this new gospel of treating employees well and as partners rather than the Donald Trump "You're fired" approach.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By BuddyRich on 9/16/2008 5:28:21 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with that gospel, is that in the private sector, it is usually just lipservice with no real substance (certain companies like Google excluded), cause as everyone knows, the sharehold comes first.

Why does everything have to be measured in terms of dollars and cents, productivity, etc. anyway? If anything I think France has it right, certainly not for their economy, but that is only one measure. Having vistied France numerous times and having a couple of French friends, very few would want it to change. Its just a whole other culture over there. Everything unionized, flash strikes... even business men accept it as part of business. Does it put them at a competitive disadvantage vs. others, perhaps, but there there are strong laws that protect their domestic market as well and the French are notoriously anti-globalization...

I personally am lucky enough to work a 30 hour work week (4 day week), originally a 37.5 hour work week, but at only 80% of my regular salary (as expected)... the wife does the same, and we only pay for child care for three days a week. I wouldn't trade that extra day for more money anymore, imo my time is more valuable than money... though I could switch back voluntarily or be switched back at any time as it is all at "managers discreation" and based on "operational requirements". I am just waiting until my savings grow enough that I can live off of my investments and I can stop being a "wage slave"... soon... though the volatility of the markets does make me skittish to go of salary (and benefits) completely...


RE: The Biggest problem...
By barclay on 9/16/2008 8:29:15 PM , Rating: 3
> I wouldn't trade that extra day for more money anymore, imo my time is more valuable than money...

The key point is you have the choice to live your life this way. Would you deny the same freedom of choice to those whose values are different than yours -- to those would would trade their time for additional money? Regulations a la French style remove this choice from the employee.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Felofasofa on 9/17/2008 2:03:48 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Democrats already think the economy is a wreck; they don't know what a wrecked economy is until they've seen the results of their ideological counterparts across the pond.

And you really think your economy is not a train-wreck? Surreal is the world you live in, pity it's not connected to reality in any way shape or form. I noticed you didn't respond to my posts in the Nasa article, I guess the 500 point fall of the Dow put paid to that. The Eurozone may not be pretty, but they pale compared to the corporate failings going on in the US. Continued corporate welfare is only making it worse. How you can stomach another 75 Billion dollar bail-out (AIG) is beyond me. Having to go begging to the Koreans for cash, ouch that must hurt, hehe. US financial hegemony has well and truly been blown apart, enjoy the aftermath. You haven't got a toe-nail to stand on, in lecturing others about how they should run their economies. And as if things aren't bad enough, the potential of Palin/McCain getting up is truly horrifying. Where do you get these people?


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 9/17/2008 7:37:47 AM , Rating: 1
I would point out that the problems currently in the U.S. are going to happen in most of the overseas markets in a few more years. Enjoy it when your economy drops like a rock.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Felofasofa on 9/17/2008 7:06:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Enjoy it when your economy drops like a rock.

You'd like to think that, but although we are not immune to the credit contagion in the US, we actually have a housing shortage in Australia, keeping asset values up. Our mortgage market is far more regulated than yours, so we don't have any where near the level of bad loans you have. We also don't have the level of personal debt Americans have. None of our Banks are likely to fail as all are more than adequately capitalised, inflation is low and interest rates are heading down, not up. We are also underwritten by our massive resources, which China still has a massive appetite for. While wealth is not increasing due to asset inflation, we are well positioned to ride out the storm as we did with the Asian financial crisis. Sorry we're not going to tank like you guys.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 9/18/2008 10:04:51 AM , Rating: 2
The vast majority of the U.S. financials are adequately capitalized as well. The U.S. economy despite the wallstreet woes, is still showing positive growth rate, so no recession. Overall its simply the stretch coming back to its regular tension levels rather than being overstretched like it was in years previous.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By Felofasofa on 9/18/2008 11:57:09 AM , Rating: 2
By stretch I assume you mean asset values, which were way over valued and caused these problems. This is good, painful for the people who made the biggest gains, but we all feel very sorry for them. Fee leechers, they should be made to give them back. Another thing going for Aussie, is that our economy is so much smaller, worth around 800 billion, possibly around the size of California's or smaller, making management an easier task.


RE: The Biggest problem...
By phxfreddy on 9/18/2008 1:19:36 AM , Rating: 2
You think the government does not know?? They are behind this with their tax structure that puts companies on the hairy edge of profitability / survivability. Thus they goose up money velocity and make us more fragile and subject to their dominion.


"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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