The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'work-life balance'
After allegations emerged of brutal working practices at online game company Zynga (who, as well as considering the idea of work-life balance to be tantamount to disloyalty, recently have been forcing some employees to give up stock options), venture capital douchelord Michael Arrington posted a defence of long working hours and nonexistent work-life balance in the software industry as part of the Silicon Valley way, extensively quoting Jamie Zawinski's Netscape diaries to back up his point. But then, jwz turned around and tore it to pieces.
He's trying to make the point that the only path to success in the software industry is to work insane hours, sleep under your desk, and give up your one and only youth, and if you don't do that, you're a pussy. He's using my words to try and back up that thesis. I hate this, because it's not true, and it's disingenuous. What is true is that for a VC's business model to work, it's necessary for you to give up your life in order for him to become richer.
So if your goal is to enrich the Arringtons of the world while maybe, if you win the lottery, scooping some of the groundscore that they overlooked, then by all means, bust your ass while the bankers and speculators cheer you on.Instead of that, I recommend that you do what you love because you love doing it. If that means long hours, fantastic. If that means leaving the office by 6pm every day for your underwater basket-weaving class, also fantastic.Touché.
The Independent has a piece on the cultural differences between England and France, specifically pertaining to the question of lunch, which, in France, is an epicurean ritual taking several hours, whilst in England, is a takeaway sandwich, often efficiently consumed at one's desk (time is money, after all):
The French have the guillotine to thank for that. French food culture really took off when the princes of the Ancien Régime – who had spent most of the 1770s and 1780s gorging themselves – took off into exile. Along with their châteaux, they left their armies of chefs behind, who, sensing the way the wind was blowing, set up restaurants to feed the rising men of the middle class.
Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, published in 1861 for England's housewives, did not contain a chapter on "The Foundations of Pleasure", as Brillat-Savarin's had done. Sensuous pleasure in lunching and dining was for someone else – probably for venal foreigners or, as English writer Hannah Glasse said, those men who, full of "blind folly", employed a French chef and "their tricks". "They would," she harrumphed in her book Everlasting Syllabub and the Art of Carving, "rather be imposed on by a French Booby than give encouragement to a good English cook."There was a time when Continental influences started making inroads into Britain—the two or three decades from the end of post-WW2 austerity —but Thatcherism and the cult of yuppie power-efficiency all but put paid to such profligacy and very un-British decadence, and restored the traditional English order—utilitarian, empirical, with undertones of a very Protestant puritanism—to the lunch hour, bolstered by the ascendant imperative of Anglocapitalism:
By the Eighties, simple pleasures became uneconomical. The Prime Minister gave up sleeping and lunch was for wimps. Well-upholstered City gents, who had previously led the vanguard of British lunching in the restaurants of St James's, were to be found, prawn sandwich in hand, in front of a trading screen in a glass box in Canary Wharf. "We were back to where we started: lunch as fuel to power us into the afternoon," Vogler says.Meanwhile, where Anglocapitalist modes of gastronomy—i.e., le junk food—infiltranted France, even where they succeeded, they became coopted by French cultural norms on how one relates to food:
Recent headlines proclaiming France to be the second-most profitable market for Ronald and Co (after the US) are true but that's because, as The New York Times points out, the French go to the fast-food chain less often but spend much more, ordering "more than one course" as they would in any other restaurant.
Britain's Tory-led government is looking at the possibility of moving one of Britain's May bank holidays to October, making it a national day for the United Kingdom (as opposed to the non-holiday national days of its constituent nations). Which makes sense to an extent, given that May is loaded with two (count 'em!) bank holidays, falling shortly after Easter, and days off dry out after the end of August, with none until Christmas. Of course, being the Tory-led government, the holiday they're talking about eliminating is the May Day bank holiday, the ancient pagan spring feast which became synonymous with workers' solidarity and socialism in the 19th century. And, of course, keeping both bank holidays (of which Britain has few compared to continental Europe) is out of the question:
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, called on the government to abandon the plan. "There is strong support for an extra public holiday as the UK has the stingiest allocation in Europe. But the last thing we need is for the government to mess around with established bank holidays that workers and businesses have built their schedules around," he said.
Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, said it "was a very good idea to celebrate all things British", adding that the government should move the holiday to June to coincide with the Queen's birthday. "I don't think we need a workers' day any more than we need a day for pensioners or any other group, it is silly. We need a day everybody can celebrate. If it can be for everybody it is much more inclusive."It's not just the unions and the left who are up in arms; the proposal also risks attracting the wrath of the nation's morris dancers.
Australians work some of the longest hours in the developed world, mostly through unpaid overtime. Now, a progressive group calling itself The Australia Institute has designated today to be Go Home On Time Day, urging employees to leave the office exactly at leaving time:
Each year, Australians work more than 2 billion hours of unpaid overtime.
Around half of all employees work more hours than they are paid for. On average, a typical employee works 49 minutes of unpaid overtime per day. For full-time workers, the average daily amount of unpaid work is 70 minutes, which equates to 33 eight-hour days per year, or six and a half standard working weeks. Put another way, this is the equivalent of 'donating' more than your annual leave entitlement back to your employer.
As rising oil prices bite, people are talking about moving to a 4-day work week to reduce fuel consumption. The idea has been tried in Utah, but as befits a conservative Mormon state in the US whose emblem is the beehive, it didn't result in an extra day of leisure time, but rather four 10-hour workdays. Nonetheless, the results have been promising, and the experiment has proven popular, with 82% of participants preferring to stick with it:
"If employees are on the road 20 percent less, and office buildings are only powered four days a week," Langmaid says, "the energy savings and congestion savings would be enormous." Plus, the hour shift for the Monday through Thursday workers means fewer commuters during the traditional rush hours, speeding travel for all. It also means less time spent idling in traffic and therefore less spewing of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The 9-to-5 crowd also gets the benefit of extended hours at the DMV and other state agencies that adopt the four-day schedule.
Under John Howard's industrial-relations reforms, workers will be able to cash in 2 weeks of paid leave. Which is how the Tories put it; the unions are warning that employers could insist on employees waiving two weeks of leave; the Howard government has refused to prevent this from happening, claiming that Australian workers need to become more globally competitive. Given that Australians already work longer hours than many other countries (including Europe, the USA and Japan), this argument seems spurious.
High-value employees will, of course, be able to benefit from the increased flexibility and insist on the full four weeks (or even more; some companies, for example, give workers an option to do the opposite of this deal, and take extra unpaid leave); meanwhile, deskilled and interchangeable employees will probably get a US-style 10 days' leave a year. Then again, given that a lot of such employees work casual jobs, and don't get leave entitlements, one could argue that not much will change.
No word on whether leave loading or long-service leave (an artefact of a time when many of Australia's workers were European immigrants who desired to visit families abroad) will survive the reforms, though I wouldn't bet on it.
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out a return to the 40-hour work week as part of the Tories' industrial-relations reforms. Which could mean (a) that Australia gets to keep its socialistically inefficient 38-hour week (Oh, the lost productivity!), or possibly that working hours will be deregulated, as they are in the UK (where employment contracts routinely include clauses waiving the EU's 48-hour work week limit).
The spouse of an employee of computer-game behemoth Electronic Arts writes about their Dickensian working conditions; there, the company budgets for development to be permanently in "crunch time", and employees are obliged to work 13-hour days, 6 days a week. And, thanks to California's business-friendly employment laws, they don't even have to pay them for the extra hours. And if that wasn't a neat enough trick, there's no danger of employees rebelling, forming unions or refusing to work 85-hour weeks, as for every employee who leaves or burns out, there are ten wide-eyed novices straight out of college who would love to have the privilege of working in video games. From what I heard, these sorts of conditions are more or less standard in the game industry, with EA perhaps being an extreme case.
Mind you, as fatigued employees' performance (and health) declines, perhaps the quality of EA's product will do so as well, giving free-range game studios a chance to pick off their market share. Though at what human cost?
(Also, I wonder how long until India and China (or, for that matter, Eastern Europe) start making high quality video games, undercutting Western development costs. Certainly, the pop-cultural nature of games may be a barrier to entry, though in the age of cultural globalisation, young urban Chinese and Indians are increasingly exposed to the same trends as Californians. Don't China, India and such already make a good proportion of mobile-phone games (which are less nuance-sensitive than the latest Xbox epics)?)
In the US, workers get on average 10 days of vacation time a year. Americans are not actually legally entitled to vacations, and the leave they take is given to them by their employers out of the goodness of their hearts; many jobs start off with 5 days of leave per year, and some employees negotiate unpaid leave or to do work whilst on their vacation. Of course, since there is no legal entitlement to vacation time, when times are tough, workers take less vacation time as not to be seen as dispensible. But the industrious American workforce has adapted to this admirably, for example learning to take a few long weekends a year instead of a long holiday.
In contrast, workers in China get 15 legally mandated days off per year, sararimen in Japan get 10 (and take 17.5 on average), and countries like Australia and the UK give their employees 20 days off. And the communist wine-drinkin' surrender monkeys of Europe have even more. I wonder how long until there is a push by the WTO or IMF or someone to abolish these mandates by international "free trade" treaty, by defining them as "expropriation" (i.e., requiring multinational corporations to give workers paid leave is equivalent to nationalising their assets, and thus not on), and to harmonise all of McWorld on the US model?
Pinkness and horror: In today's globalised, just-in-time marketplace, many IT workers are coerced into working 50-to-60-hour weeks. This is done by scheduling meetings early and late in the day (often required to teleconference with the head office), and when employees are "downsized", the work is spread around other employees. This is helped along by a high unemployment rate, and fear that if one doesn't put in 60 hours for the team, the next guy on the dole queue would be more than happy to oblige.
"A classic comment is 'you're not a team player' which means that team players work long hours and then go to the pub or the workplace social, extending the work hours even more. The twentysomething, university-educated, sports-car-driving, inner-city, one-bedroom-apartment-dwelling manager has very little understanding of why a family person spends an hour getting home, has to pick up the kids or the shopping before 6pm, and not work 60 hours a week. There's a chasm between the ones who understand and the ones who don't - the ones with a life outside work and ones without."
One consequence of this, and such employees' lack of time for a life outside of work is the rise in the popularity of online dating, now no longer confined to geeks and the socially awkward:
"Almost 20 per cent of those professionals using RSVP are IT workers," Mulcahy says. "They're used to the Internet for time-saving services and convenience, so it's natural they turn to online dating for spicing up their love life."