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The mixing of private and office time, influenced by laptops, working from home, mobile phones

 
Jan de Boer
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If I look back to the old days when I started as a software programmer, my job was done after I left the office. I was free, I was happy. Nowadays, companies give you laptops, and you can do work at home. You have the possibility of working at home, remote, the mobile phones are getting more like mini computers, and you can make emails with them, browse the web. Furthermore I have been in constant conflict with managers about company outings: I do not like these, we are one big happy family meetings, and we all are obliged to become friends, just because we work for the same employer. More and more work gets mixed with private, and in private time you do work. I must say I utterly and totally hate this situation. I am beginning to hate my work. Not the work as such, but the fact that you can never escape it, you have no time just for yourself. Hence not actually even being a software engineer, but the shifted attitude towards even work in general in all professions. I hate laptops, I hate mobile phones, I wanna go to a remote deserted Island, with no internet where nobody can reach me. Sorry for my frustration.

What do you think?
 
Jan Cumps
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That frustration doesn't help.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Employers must realise that they are paying employees, not buying slaves. They pay for a certain amount of one's time, and don't have call on anybody for 24-7. One's God, one's spouse, one's children and one's friends might have 24-7 call on one, but employers don't. An employer can expect one to work for them during the hours agreed; they are not paying anybody to work at other times.

Employers must realise that tired employees are unproductive. Not only does one's productivity decline if overworked, but also one's propensity for potentially dangerous errors increases. Lorry or bus drivers are restricted from working more than however many hours consecutively because of the increased risk of accidents with tiredness. Similarly a tired programmer will, probably unwittingly, introduce bugs into the code, which may cause dangerous errors or vulnerabilities which are not found for a long time. Or, even worse, are found easily by the wrong people.
 
Jimmy Clark
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You need to control yourself and establish working hours and non-working hours. If your position requires that you be available 24 hours a day, then there is not much you can do to change this. However, if you have a certain amount of hours per day that you work, e.g. 8 or 10 then stick to these hours and do not do any work or handle any electronic communications outside of these hours. Working remotely or in an office should not change this.

Only deviate from this when there is a dire emergency or other serious situation.
 
Henry Wong
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On one hand, the answer is simple -- at home, don't turn on laptops; and if possible, turn off the cell phone.

On the other hand, I understand why people turn on laptops, and stay on-call. Because it is easy, and in this age of worrying whether you have a job or not, people are getting paranoid (although is some cases, rightly so). In this second case, I don't think you can blame the technology -- if the technology didn't exist, and people were paranoid, it would mean people would work longer hours at the office... and this topic would become how long the expected work hours are.

Henry
 
Jan de Boer
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Henry Wong wrote:I don't think you can blame the technology -- if the technology didn't exist, and people were paranoid, it would mean people would work longer hours at the office... and this topic would become how long the expected work hours are.


Mmm. I do not agree with you completely. I have worked long hours before in stress situations. This was also stressful, true, but even then if you were home, you were home. The problem is: the phone is álways there. It cán always ring, and I damage my career if I switch it off and people cannot reach me. It does not even have to happen, the 'threat' is constant. That gets on my nerve.

Although I must say, fortunately, I am that acceptably good in the normal office times, my manager is starting to accept I switch the phone off.
 
Maneesh Godbole
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If you are lucky enough, you will have a manager who will seldom call you after office hours. In the rare scenarios where he does call, first thing he will do is apologize, and really mean it. I wouldn't mind being disturbed even at 3:00 AM for such a kind of manager. In one of my previous jobs was lucky to have this kind of manager. Once we were off boozing in the evening (Friday) and he called around 1130. Some problem had cropped up which needed immediate attention. I went back to office (20 KM drive), took care of it and then went home. This manager was himself known to be accessible 24x7. Awesome guy.

For the other types, I always have full faith in Pavlov.
1) Ring ring, hello, boss, can you speak a bit louder please? I can hardly hear you. Damn this network.
2) Cut the phone in mid sentence. Blame it on the network.
3) Pick the phone, start whispering, is this an emergency? Can it wait? There is a bit of a serious problem at home and I am in the middle of it.
4) Dont pick up the calls, let it ring. Under no circumstances cut the call. You "forgot" your cell phone in the car. If possible, ring him back up very early next morning(6 AM). You went for a jog and noticed the call(s). Give him a taste of his own medicine.

I can personally vouch for #1 and #4. Worked like a charm for me.

Jokes apart, if you can manage to deliver a costly application on time, you should be able to manage your life too. Learn where to draw the line. Rather teach them where the line should not be crossed.
 
Jimmy Clark
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Jan, if you feel that your "career" can be "damaged" by not being available
during non-work hours, then you can work on this to improve your situation.

Slowly stop being available and condition your fellow colleagues and manager to realize
that you are not available during non-work hours. Also, stop providing real-time responses to emails.
When an email comes in, don't respond instantly. Take your time, a few hours or the next day, then
answer. In emergency situations, you should be reachable by phone only.

Also, stop carrying your cell phone with you 24 hours a day and use your voicemail system intelligently.

If you have a position that "requires" 24/7 access, then your employer should pay for either a beeper and/or cell phone service. They should also pay for your remote internet access, i.e. Internet service in your home. Any device or service that "you" personally are paying for, should not be used for work purposes.

If you are unable to re-condition your colleagues and manager to this life-style, then you should find another
position somewhere else, if it bothers you. The ecomony is doing great (has been for past 15 months) and will be for 2011. Have no fear, Underdog is here
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Defend your time. I don't work much from home. I can't say never, but it is rare and my boss knows not to expect it. She also knows that I am one of the most productive people in the office overall, available for true emergencies/production support and will work overtime without being asked when it is truly needed. It is awkward to train people this and you have to feel confident in yourself to do so.

The phone being on and the phone ringing/being expected to check e-mail are two different things. My work BlackBerry is on. I haven't gotten an after hours call on it in quite some time. And my colleagues know to e-mail me with a high priority flag when it really requires a reply after hours. Turns out this is rare too. It would probably be "better" if I replied to all e-mails immediately. But that trains people that I do that. Not my definition of better.

Plus after work, I learn about technology, moderate here, etc. All of which are skills that help me at my job.
 
Jan de Boer
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Ah, I am missing half the story here actually. Ok, there is this calls from work interrupting your free time, that is one thing. It is not that much about stress about too much work though. But the other thing is the obligation to spend free time with your colleagues. Have you ever tried to escape that and seen the responses of management?

I am a single father. Now my daughter is older, but when she needed more attention, I did not wanted to go to all these after work happy hours. I had a manager who could not understand this, and thought we all had to be friends.

If I would describe my way of working, how I would like to organize my life, I would work really hard for in the office hours, and get things done. Also this implicates that for example I wont chit chat about all kind of things because I want to get all my work done, in the 'worktime'. Not being ignorant of the fact that communication is very important, and good communication saves time. But I am not there to upgrade my social life. Then after office hours I'd dedicate my time to other interests and responsibilities. My other interests are NOT computers. I do a lot of sports, I am interested in politics, history, generals science. Also as a single dad I have more then enough things to do at home.

If I would describe how I experience how my manager wants me to organize my life: I should work, but socialize a lot of time too on the job floor. I should spend a lot of free time to go and 'cart and paintball' with the guys for the group spirit improvement, team building nonsense. In my free time I should not get enough about computers, computers, computers. Study books, repair my neighbour's PC. If my daughter needs help with her homework, I should not do that myself, but hire a teacher or a nanny.

I do not want that. By the way, it is not that I hate computers for example. If I had a job in another subject but computer science, I would probably use my computer as a hobby, and do nothing about thát job in my free time. I feel obliged to always be with the united family of the company, and the umbilical cord that never let's me escape is the mobile phone of course.

Ok, I put it a bit dramatic.....,



but it is not jobstress as such. I am doing fine, I am actually pretty good in my job.




 
fred rosenberger
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Jan de Boer wrote:Ah, I am missing half the story here actually. Ok, there is this calls from work interrupting your free time, that is one thing. It is not that much about stress about too much work though. But the other thing is the obligation to spend free time with your colleagues. Have you ever tried to escape that and seen the responses of management?


For what it's worth, IT is not the only profession that does this. My wife used to work for a law firm. They had a company picnic on a Saturday afternoon, about 90 minutes from my home (office was 20 minutes away, picnic an hour on the other side of that). When you got there, you had to SIGN IN, and list your family members who showed up, so they know you came.

If you didn't show up, you were asked on Monday why you weren't there, and looked down upon.
 
Jan de Boer
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fred rosenberger wrote:For what it's worth, IT is not the only profession that does this.


Yes, exactly!! I already stated that it is nót IT related. All companies do it, and I get the impression that it is getting worse and worse over the years.
 
Henry Wong
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Jan de Boer wrote:Yes, exactly!! I already stated that it is nót IT related. All companies do it, and I get the impression that it is getting worse and worse over the years.


IMHO, I too, think it is getting worse, but not because the companies are getting worse. I think it has always been like this -- and it is you that is getting more tethered.

As you get more senior, you are getting more important, and hence, you are getting more tethered, because of that importance. It wasn't better a decade ago, it was just that you weren't that important a decade ago...

Henry

 
Jan de Boer
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Henry Wong wrote:As you get more senior, you are getting more important, and hence, you are getting more tethered, because of that importance.


May-be....

Irritating thing is also that if you get more senior, most ppl also get kids and other responsibilities. And you have less time to spend on these 'propaganda' meetings. But if you wont go, as a senior you will have a lesser change to become team-lead or something. The management decides that, and they don't like it when you skip all their motivation reunions. So, in fact the irritation is double. I never liked to go there anyway, but I am now the most senior I can get technically and the only next career move is being management. But then I have to talk my way in at the company outings.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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fred rosenberger wrote:. . . SIGN IN, . . . If you didn't show up, you were asked on Monday why you weren't there, and looked down upon.
And presumably those who did turn up were rewarded with a couple of hours' extra salary?
 
Jan de Boer
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:
fred rosenberger wrote:. . . SIGN IN, . . . If you didn't show up, you were asked on Monday why you weren't there, and looked down upon.
And presumably those who did turn up were rewarded with a couple of hours' extra salary?


You know there was lately a complete idiot who asked me this: We had a bowling night with some people from Korea, they are a partner. One young lad saw me not being too enhousiastic. In very very broken English he asked 'Do you like'. I respond: 'Not really no'. Then he says 'Then why go, cost money'. Ah, yes, like I get the costs refonded in my salary slip the next month if I do not go. You can really see that these outings are NOT organized for the employees pleasure, if you consequently say you have better things to do. I once even had an employer who prestented me a líst of outings where I did go, and not had been to for the last half year in a yearly progress talk we had. Claiming of course I did not integrate with the group.
 
Tim Holloway
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A certain amount of time leakage has always been part of some IT jobs. I worked in mainframe tech support back in my earlier days and it was a given that I could expect the occasional 3am phone call. But on the other hand, for that plus a certain amount of technical expertise, I got paid better than the applications people.

Well and good. Unfortunately, since then, employment has become more and more desperate as every position has become temporary and the expectation is that you no longer have a life of your own. Practically everyone right down to the fry cooker at McDonald's is supposed to be plugged into the job 24x7x365-1/4 and not only is the pay premium gone, the base pay isn't what it used to be either. But don't complain. The job may end up offshored.

Tension between employers and employees goes back forever. As long as a single other person could take your job sufficiently well, you were at risk. Historically, the only way to put a stop to rampant exploitation was to get enough actual and potential employees pushing back that the normal inequity of power was neutralized.

However, to most IT people "Trade Union" is a 4-letter word and they don't organize into guilds, professional associations, or other groups large enough to make a difference, either to employers directly or to governments that regulate such things. And for those who sneer at government regulation, I should point out that corporations and industry associations have no problem with buying favorable legislation.

Even with collective bargaining, there's still a problem at least until offshore talent also weighs in on the side of the workers rather than the employers. But rest assured. As long as enough employees are willing to take it, employers will continue to dish it out.
 
Sherif Shehab
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Jimmy Clark wrote:You need to control yourself and establish working hours and non-working hours. If your position requires that you be available 24 hours a day, then there is not much you can do to change this. However, if you have a certain amount of hours per day that you work, e.g. 8 or 10 then stick to these hours and do not do any work or handle any electronic communications outside of these hours. Working remotely or in an office should not change this.

Only deviate from this when there is a dire emergency or other serious situation.


i totally a agree with Jimmy , you need to control working hours to be mixed with your private life , employers think they pay for salves not human being got there duties after working hours , so let's say your working hours are 8 hrs so finish your work in these hours , and after that enjoy your private life this will charge your battery to the next coming working day .. for the calling on the mobile phone you can buy another mobile number for work only and one for family , friends ..etc as soon as you finish work close the work mobile an throw it away any enjoy to the max or you can do as Maneesh said :
For the other types, I always have full faith in Pavlov.
1) Ring ring, hello, boss, can you speak a bit louder please? I can hardly hear you. Damn this network.
2) Cut the phone in mid sentence. Blame it on the network.
3) Pick the phone, start whispering, is this an emergency? Can it wait? There is a bit of a serious problem at home and I am in the middle of it.
4) Dont pick up the calls, let it ring. Under no circumstances cut the call. You "forgot" your cell phone in the car. If possible, ring him back up very early next morning(6 AM). You went for a jog and noticed the call(s). Give him a taste of his own medicine.

All the above is applicable in case your position not required to be 24/7 on call ...
 
Jan de Boer
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Sherif Shehab wrote:I totally a agree with Jimmy , you need to control working hours to be mixed with your private life


No, no, no again.
I am not experiencing job stress!!!
:-)

See one of my later posts. Actually my bigger irritation is the mixing of private hours time with work. I mean in the sense of the obliged spending of private time with coworkers. The 'we all are friends propaganda meetings'. That is fár worse, for me at least. Read my second or third contribution to this thread. That explains it I hope. And I am really getting sick of it.

Addition: It's the 3rd post I did, that explains my frustration.
 
Deepak Bala
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And I am really getting sick of it.


You can always choose to ignore those that look down on you for avoiding these parties. It falls under the same category as the stigmatization of those that leave work at 5. Some people cannot understand that you have a life. Perhaps because they do not wish to understand it.
 
Janeice DelVecchio
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Jan de Boer wrote:The 'we all are friends propaganda meetings'. That is fár worse, for me at least.


It would be for me, too. I like work. I like going to work, having a job, and all the normal side effects thereof.

I like people. I'm friendly and polite.

But when you work with someone for a third of your awake time for most of the week..... well.... it's time to go home. And people get offended, like you don't like them or something. Really, all the reason is, you just want to go home to your family, and that's your business. If they want "team building exercises" or "we're all friends meetings" they should hold them during their business time, not your business time.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Janeice DelVecchio wrote:[ If they want "team building exercises" or "we're all friends meetings" they should hold them during their business time, not your business time.

You mean personal time, right?

My team has lunch for special occasions. It isn't work time per se, but it isn't after work. A lot of people on my team have kids so there is motivation all around to go home.
 
Janeice DelVecchio
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:
Janeice DelVecchio wrote:[ If they want "team building exercises" or "we're all friends meetings" they should hold them during their business time, not your business time.

You mean personal time, right?


It's a play on words... "what you do on your time is your business"..... then "their business time, not your business time"
Although not a play on words for those folks who run their families or lives like a business...

Going to lunch is more acceptable (at least to me), because that's what happens.... lunch meetings, work through lunch, whatever. Even if it's expected of you... you're there for that time anyway (most likely). It's the bosses that don't have their own lives, families, hobbies that you need to look out for. Then you end up going for happy hour every week, and then you can't one week and get chastised for not going. Or the bosses that call you on your day off, at odd hours, email at 11pm on a friday asking if/when/how something got done. My girlfriend has a boss that calls her several times a day to "check in" or to ask her what she thinks. Sometimes, he calls her a few hours after working an overnight shift while she's trying to sleep. That's rude. I told her to call him at three in the morning.

Going for lunch as a team once in a while is cool. Keep doing it. I doubt you're the kind of people we talk about when we say that "bosses don't let people have personal time."
 
Jan de Boer
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Although not a play on words for those folks who run their families or lives like a business...


That actually what I thought you meant! Since I, as a single parent, not rich enough to delegate tasks even, nééd my time.

Thanks for the posting! There is not much more to say, but it good to know that I am not the only one who thinks like this, and hence I am not weird or crazy.
 
Victor Ramen
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Jan de Boer wrote:
Although not a play on words for those folks who run their families or lives like a business...


That actually what I thought you meant! Since I, as a single parent, not rich enough to delegate tasks even, nééd my time.

Thanks for the posting! There is not much more to say, but it good to know that I am not the only one who thinks like this, and hence I am not weird or crazy.


Yes...we all feel the same
 
Jt Smith
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nice post as every one can easily relate to that.
 
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