Sunday, 5 September 2010

I have the right to blog in office time !

The blurring of lines between work life and personal life has been a profound change in the last 10 years. We may not have fully realized it as it’s a classic case of slow boiling of the frog. If anybody had presented to you what the demands of working life would be when you started your career, you would have recoiled with horror. But like the proverbial frog, we have all been slowly cooked to death.

E mail, and later Blackberry, have been the two largest causes of virtually eliminating the line between business time and personal time. I know of a senior guy who sets an alarm three times in the night to check his email. He may be an extreme case, but most of us are not very far away from there. Just look around when a plane lands and you’ll know what I mean. The office comes to us all the time. We can’t go to bed without it – the damn thing is under the pillow. We can’t even go to the loo without it. The day is not far off when we’ll be buried with it.

Imagine a business situation where you are at an important meeting. Perhaps with your Chairman. How would it look if you jumped out every five minutes because the Blackberry was pinging. Yet that’s precisely what we do when we are talking to our child every day. (Or girl friend, if you are Gils !) Business has completely taken over personal time.

The second major development that has contributed to it is the world going flat. Time zone differentials mean that conference calls are invariably at night if you are Asian, unearthly morning if you are American, graveyard shift if you are Australian and interrupting the fine wine at lunch if you are French ! That is after the normal slog of the 12 hour day or thereabouts (French excepted !).

A third development is the concept of working from home. Increasing numbers of people do it these days. That’s like opening the door to the wolf and willingly inviting him home. Or perhaps its just a realization that he is going to come in anyway; so why not invite him openly. Fair enough.

I am not haranguing against work life virtually taking over personal life. It has profound social consequences which will be apparent only after a generation. But it’s a free world – its your choice whether you want to do it or not. Make this choice consciously ; it does not make any sense to allow it to happen without a thought. After all, you can always chose to be a Prof !! (that's just to needle JS who seems to have vanished)

But this post, as the title suggests, is not about work life taking over personal life. Its about companies preventing personal stuff from coming in to the office. Like blocking Blogger and the like (for the sake of official record, let me state that the enlightened companies that I work with do not do that !!). Pray what is the difference between the infamous Net Nanny and this lot ?? I’ve heard the stale arguments – workers will only be browsing porn if there’s a free for all. I pay you to work; not to while away the time. The company faces legal liabilities if people use office computers to do irresponsible things. Blah Blah Blah. When you don’t blink an eyelid in encroaching on every available minute of personal time, why is it that personal stuff cannot encroach into the office ??

Sorry mate. Not acceptable. I demand the right to blog at office.


Anonymous said...

Here i have the right to blog and bloghop,while most other websites are blocked.
we are in a mixed state where the line of divergance between personal and business is not very clear.We confuse both or the situation demand so.
Now am in middle of doing a boring document and blog hopped just to find a interesting sunday post from you.(its real pain when you work when rest of world rests)

I may in middle of sleep worry about a priority one functionality being not delivered.

Your last para is absolutely true,indian workers do the same what is mentioned and Indian companies say the same. I have seen my colleagues misusing things and thus creating a tough world for us without internet.

Anonymous said...

i the vazhi mozhinjifies last line :) thala...kalakreenga thala...semma contemporary post :) gilsku girlfriends maila :( ada neenga enga sogatha kelapareenga....

Anonymous said...

We're given carte blanche where I work and I would never work for a company that didn't allow free use of the internet for many of the reason you have stated. It better be a two way street and I just cannot see the talented in this world, working under restricted conditions for very long.

Even though we have carte blanche, I have never witnessed anyone looking at inappropriate material and 80% of the people I work with only hop on the net for personal reasons for about 10-15 minutes of their day. Also, as a major sports fan, I can tolerate working when my Gators are playing football as long as I have the game updates running on my desktop. If this were disallowed, that would be 3 or 4 more sick days per year from me and I know many others that would do the same. Spoiled Americans? Its a different world now, the M-F, 9-5, job is a thing of the past. If the modern work environment is going to cut into the time we used to spend enjoying a good ball game, eating with family, or sharing a drink with friends, then there had better be concessions or yes, screw the company. I will care about my company as much as it appears to care about me.

Ramesh said...

@AA - You poor thing working on a Sunday. Occupational hazards of living in that part of the world.

@Gils - No fun in this world at all, if I can't pull Gils' leg once in a while. Gilsu - Thanks for being so sporting.

@Hopfrog - Totally agree. But Gators ?????? Why oh why !!!

Durga said...

Perfect! Couldn't agree more with you! :-D

LG said...

Brilliantly written. Truely I belive I'm not too far from this - Keep on checking and replying too my mails 3 times during my sleep. Oh gee.. its time for change. I will work on it. Thanks a lot Ramesh for this prescription :-)

sandhya sriram said...

absolutely spell bound. how true. but not sure if there is a choice. sometimes, its much much beyond whether your company allows you to do other things. it is sheerly whether you have that time. I am not sure, when was the last time, i was ever asked whether i have the time before a project was assigned to me. and i am not sure when was the last time, i ever said a Big No, no matter how tied up i was.

whether you call it cultural, whether you call it situational, a recognition that every individual should have a personal time beyond the hours required for daily chores is just not there.

and all of us run this race. we may be feeling sad for ourselves, but knowingly or unknowingly, we are also doing this to our people. and its not gonna end soon. unless some drastic change happens.

right now, the only factor which puts a stop to this mad race is one's health, but by the time he stops, its too late already.

Deepa said...

Taking your statement a bit forward. The company wouldn't blink an eye before kicking you out if you aren't giving enough time to your work, but imagine if families started giving you a boot for taking them for granted. Thanks to your post, I am gonna be careful once I get back to work! (Although I don't have the faintest clue as to how am I gonna work that out.)

Vishal said...

Absolutely agree with you Ramesh!

Have been quite introspective on this very topic for past few months. Indeed, there is no limit as to how far business time has now intruded into personal time. I have witnessed managers toying with blackberry in the middle of important meetings.

Office time is supposed to be 8 hours of contribution to the business. But when you leave sharp at 5.30 or 6 PM, boss presumes that you are leaving early. If that is not enough, your KRAs are designed in such a way that 12 hours per day could not match it.

Considering all these hard facts, one must be allowed to take out few hours during office hours and engage in other pressing personal activities or pastimes.

@ Deepa - that was a very good thought.

kiwibloke said...

For me office is just another place to carry on with stuff. fixed physical locations/fixed times and fixed activity patterns do not really happen in my case. I regularly get into work at 1130am or whatever time suits me - could be 7am for all I care- back home at whatever time suits me (could be 3pm could be 10pm). I have a set of objectives and targets to complete in a day/week/month/year/3 years and how does is matter if I need to do it strictly within a continuous 8hours in a day and 5 continuous days a week. A typical day is a couple of hours of work, interlude (could be anything - net surfing,in the bank,cooking, grocery shopping, Partent-Teacher Meet, watching cricket, tinkering with the car,smoking,just sleeping) followed by another bout of work, then interlude. On an average I get to about 50hours of work in a week. Office-8hrs-5days etc is so jurassic in style! I just hope my colleagues/juniors at office do not get 'inspired' and get into trouble emulating me response and my seniors do not get cheesed off and sack me! Results matter - both at work and home and managing time to get them is ones own business!

Vishal said...

@kiwibloke - great words... I just loved it. You are incredible, Ravi!

J said...

Ha ha ha! Do I sense some envy here?? :)
I agree with kiwi that such restrictions sound outdated. But then that argument makes sense when output is very measurable. We have a department assistant who is always surfing some singles website or playing solitaire and she is unionized to top it. People avoid giving her stuff to do because she never gets stuff done. If you put such restrictions for the likes of her, the rest would suffer.

Ramesh said...

@Durga - :)

@LG - Throw that Blackberry away !!

@Sandhya - There IS a choice. We can start by running our own departments more professionally and not intruding on personal time. And we must learn to say NO. Its just not worth having a health crisis just because we were timid in saying no.

@Deepa - Families actually do give the boot, but we realise it too late. When our sons or daughters become strangers, we realise the price we have paid.

@Vishal - We should all collectively desist from mortgaging our lives to the office.

@kiwi - You are a rare one who does all this. Worth emulating.

@J - :) :) Oh yes, non working union employees are a different matter altogether. To them you should even regulate loo breaks !

Anonymous said...

really interesting blog Ramesh. Whilst I am not at the stage of setting the alarm, your blog certainly had me syaing 'that's me, he's talking about me' !!....., checking emails is one of the last things I do going to bed and one of the first in the morning, sad really !!. That said, it is about making a choice and achieving the 'work life balance thing' is up to each of us to do.... I'm not sure about this 'work/life' thing however - to me there is just life, with 86400 seconds in every day - what we do with those seconds, how we choose to spend those seconds is largly up to each of us individually to decide - works for me !

ps - I am responding to this blod in 'work' time - just like I will no doubt do some emails in 'home time' tonight- happy 86400 seconds !

Ramesh said...

@Trevor - Oh no Trevor ; you are far far away from my vision of the crazy manager. You have a great balance ; something we can learn from. And you are absolutely right - we cannot compartmentalise life. We could 25 years ago, but not now. It has profound social consequences I believe - fertile ground for sociolgical research.

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