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Technology Will Chain You To Your Job

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I am always amused by the idea that technology will set us free from the hassles of work. Talk about utopian. The reality is that technology chains us to our jobs, creating a state of permanent surveilliance by our employers who demand more and more. The 40-hour week becomes a joke, both because many people cannot work at all or can only find part-time work while those who do have work have to labor well past 40 hours because the boss can track them.

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  • RepubAnon

    We really do need better enforcement of the labor laws, especially those preventing employers from misclassifying someone as a “salaried” employee, and then denying the employee overtime. If you’re not a manager or a licensed professional, you’re probably not working in a job that can legally be made “salaried.” Of course, pointing this out to one’s employer is a good way to become unemployed…

    • RepubAnon

      Fact Sheet #17G: Salary Basis Requirement and the Part 541 Exemptions Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

      However, Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees. Section 13(a)(1) and Section 13(a)(17) also exempt certain computer employees. To qualify for exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week. Job titles do not determine exempt status. In order for an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the Department’s regulations.

      • Malaclypse

        You leave dumbprints Jenny.

  • DrS

    I need to find out some more details about the winning lawsuit that happened at my current gig. It’s the first time in my professional career doing various programming, stats and data analytic stuff that I’ve been hourly. Not contract work, fully benefitted, full time position. We all work 40, unless they need us for more at time and a half.

    My last gig, 50 was kinda the low. Much more typical.

    • RepubAnon

      Computer Employee Exemption
      To qualify for the computer employee exemption, the following tests must be met:
      • The employee must be compensated either on a salary or fee basis at a rate not less than $455 per week
      or, if compensated on an hourly basis, at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour;
      • The employee must be employed as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer or other similarly skilled worker in the computer field performing the duties described below;
      • The employee’s primary duty must consist of:
      1) The application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software or system functional specifications;
      2) The design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design
      specifications;
      3) The design, documentation, testing, creation or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or
      4) A combination of the aforementioned duties, the performance of which requires the same level of skills.
      The computer employee exemption does not include employees engaged in the manufacture or repair of computer hardware and related equipment. E

      • Woody Peckerwood

        Actually, I had no idea that computer employees were exempt by law.

        So, why is Erik Rah-Rahing about the terrible employer and not lobbying for the law to be changed? Probably just easier to sit behind the internet and complain while he draws his de facto gubmint check.

        • Nobdy

          Yes. He is drawing his gubmint check on a Sunday evening. If there’s one thing Gubmint employees are accused of by the right it is that tireless always on work ethic.

        • Malaclypse

          You still can’t cover up your dumbprints Jennie.

          • Wordpresser Stresser

            …And you continue providing the public service of highlighting the dumb!
            where would we be without you?

            Oh yeah, we’d still get it but be spared the downside of bringing additional attention to it. To say nothing of having to skip past your drivel.

      • mud man

        The point would be that the relevant category LIKES it this way and gets really upset when the Suits start monetizing like that. More people should have challenging jobs that they LIKE to do.

        It can work in our favor; one job, after the Director found me laboring when he came in at 5:30, he didn’t worry when he didn’t see me during the day. As long as the stuff got put back in good order. SOME weeks I worked 60 hours, others not. But then, I was never actually any good at this stuff.

  • Nobdy

    As someone who hates working constantly, needs a certain amount of down time to recharge mentally, and has hobies and interests outside my work, I despise this development. I routinely get home from work after midnight, and even weekends I’m not working I’m expected to check my blackberry and be available for work, which often ruins the relaxation and “flow” of my weekend. There has to be a pretty extreme social cost to all this work, and for what? I’m personally pretty well compensated (though I’d love to work 2/3rds as much and make 2/3rds the money), but in general wages have been stagnant.

    What is the social contract between boss and employee at this point? There’s no real loyalty in either direction, not a whole lot of trust either. Is this really how people want/like things?

    • Brett

      It’s stupid even from an employer perspective, because productivity in most jobs drops off a cliff after 8 hours of work – and for creative work, it’s 6 hours. Salon had a really good long-form piece on this and the rise of the 40-hour work week.

      Are managers these days just a bunch of insecure, control-freaks who would rather overwork the workers they know and have as opposed to simply hiring more? That actually wouldn’t surprise me.

      • jlk7e

        I have a friend who’s an IT middle manager (working for a university, not a for profit business, admittedly). He works pretty long hours himself, and seems to generally expect the same of his employees (not totally insane hours, but I’d guess about 50 a week). I think he’d love to be able to hire more employees, but the basic issue is that neither he, nor, I think, his bosses going several levels up from him, actually have the power to do that. Even to replace existing employees who leaves sounds like a Kafka-esque nightmare of bureaucracy that takes forever.

        From this, I theorize that the day-to-day managers who recognize the usefulness of having more employees generally don’t actually have the power to hire them; the higher up managers who actually have the power to hire don’t see why they should, because they don’t really understand how much work is involved and generally see that the job gets done with the number of workers they have, so why should they hire more?

        (Sorry, Manny Kant here…screwed up the display name vs. user name issue)

  • My first job out of college, the boss paid us a flat hourly rate, regardless of the number of hours worked. Never any kind of overtime. One of our colleagues’ husband was a labor lawyer, and insisted that was basis for a lost wages lawsuit; by the end of my time there, I think I may have missed several thousand dollars.

    But as noted above, bringing the case seemed to be not only a good way to be not-employed, the boss had anger issues and there was a certain amount of concern on that end.

    But I could never believe that his accountant and attorney allowed him to do that.

  • I like the new random comment placement algorithm. It adds an element of chaos.

    • Scotius

      I wonder how many hours of unpaid overtime it took to produce that algorithm.

      • Xάος

        In my day, there was no unpaid overtime. In fact, there was no time. And we liked it.

        • Malaclypse

          Jenny we can all see your dumbprints.

        • Hesiod

          Of course, after you we had wide-bosomed Gaia, the ever-sure foundation of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros, fairest among the deathless gods. One day, Tartarus went to see Gaia, so he tied an onion to his belt, which was the style at the time. He couldn’t get white onions, because agriculture hadn’t been invented yet. The only thing he could get was those big yellow ones…

          • Rhodos daktylos Aurora

            It wasn’t like that at all.

            • wjts

              You mean “Eos rhododactylos“. For shame.

  • Aaron B.

    Technology has made utopia POSSIBLE. We could decide to take advantage of increasing productivity to work less and keep our standard of living the same. And it’s indisputably true that we’re at least no longer slaves to disease and famine rather than our bosses. I’m utopian about the potential of technology, but that doesn’t require believing in inevitability. That’s more the area of Silicon Valley tech cultists.

    • Is there even the slightest evidence that technology has made a utopia of any kind possible? What does that even mean?

      • We can get fresh porn without having to go to the store.

      • efgoldman

        Well, I much prefer having scanned documents in front of my face, and typed notes of history, than twelve-inch piles of paper on my desk with a series of unreadable scrawls and sticky notes that might or might not have fallen off.
        Not to mention acre of file cabinets, in which all that paper may or may not have been filed at all, and may or may not have been filed correctly.

        • While I now take electronic images of my documents, I prefer the old paper system by far. I find it much easier to use when I am writing. The advantages of storage however overwhelms that.

          • efgoldman

            I prefer the old paper system by far. I find it much easier to use when I am writing.

            That’s fine for what you do. In a large brokerage/mutual fund company, with millions of accounts and literally billions of dollars to account for, not to mention legal and regulatory requirements, not so much.

          • Thanks to computer technology, I have easy access to all sorts of out-of-print journals for when I need to do some historical research. The Dead Horse XIII research bit was for fun, but I have to do that for work on a regular basis and having PDFs of the old research makes it a half-hour job rather than a day.

            Most technology is neutral. What people do with it ranges from terrible to great.

      • Hogan

        Vaccination is a technology. Eyeglasses are a technology. Central heating is a technology. All of you are going to have to be a little more specific here.

        • Bricks are a technology. 2x stick construction is a technology…

        • Oh, no question about that. Technologies have been life-changing almost entirely for the better, or a few have anyway. Despite common belief, I am not anti-technology. On the other hand, the idea that technology itself is an unqualified positive is really problematic.

          • efgoldman

            Technologies have been life-changing almost entirely for the better, or a few have anyway.

            On the other hand: artillery, poison gases, nuclear explosives….

            • mikeSchilling

              Napalm. hydrogen bombs, biological warfare.

          • Linnaeus

            On the other hand, the idea that technology itself is an unqualified positive is really problematic.

            That’s because technological innovation is embedded in a social, political, and cultural context. Which tends to be forgotten.

          • Hogan

            The reality is that technology chains us to our jobs

            As I said, we could use more specificity. These discussions tend to spin out because (among other things) “technology” gets reified as one undifferentiated mass of automation/surveillance on the one hand and tedious-labor-saving/get-stuff-right-away on the other. The issue isn’t technology as such; it’s the political and economic structures in which technology gets pursued and deployed, and these shorthands really don’t help to promote discussion of that issue.

            Just sayin.

            • sibusisodan

              The issue isn’t technology as such; it’s the political and economic structures in which technology gets pursued and deployed, these shorthands really don’t help to promote discussion of that issue.

              Yes.

          • Lee Rudolph

            the idea that technology itself is an unqualified positive is really problematic.

            As is the related but distinct idea that entrepreneurship itself is an unqualified positive. My skin crawls whenever I read a fawning paean to “social entrepreneurs”.

            • “Social” in that context serves the same function that it does with “disease”: it hides from public view something that the person in question finds awkward and embarrassing. The only question is what is being hidden.

      • Aaron B.

        Massive increase in the efficiency of the means of production means that we could, as a society, decide to work less while keeping our level of material comfort the same. We do not, in fact, do this.

        • That would require a massive change to how our economy currently operates.

          1. People expect money in exchange for “stuff”.
          2. We get money by working.

          Take #2 out of the equation and there’s no point in #1 because nobody has an income.

          Plus even if consumer goods become incredibly cheap, things like housing and food will still be expensive. Maybe more expensive if current trends continue.

        • Linnaeus

          No, we don’t. I’d argue that’s in part due to technological change connected to a notion of efficiency that militates against working less while keeping level of material comfort the same for everyone.

    • Malaclypse

      Technology has made utopia POSSIBLE.

      Without technology you wouldn’t be able to troll us Jennie.

      • Aaron B.

        Without technology how would we keep ourselves in delicious pancakes?

  • One good thing about my job, when I’m off my time is my own.

    They can call me and ask me to fly an extra trip (at time and a half mind you) but they can’t make me do it.

    • Chet Manly

      I’m also damn fortunate because I literally can’t take work home. I was dumb enough to get convinced to enlist open-general in the 90’s and the Air Force proceeded to bully/lie me into cleared IT work. I thank my stars every day they did.

      I felt pretty put upon at the time, but through no foresight or planning on my part I lucked into being one of the shrinking number of folks under 40 who still have good benefits and some assurance that a comfortable retirement is even an achievable dream. I never have a crappy workday because I just remind myself there are millions of smarter, better educated, and harder working people who’d kill for what I basically stumbled into.

      • Likewise.

        When I got hired there were 5000 applications from equally qualified people that never so much as got an interview.

      • Linnaeus

        Somedays I feel like I’ll basically be scraping by with multiple jobs for the rest of my life. And there’s folks who have it way, way worse than I do (which is not awful, but not great).

        There’s always good whiskey at the end of the day.

    • Brett

      Same here. My job is a “coverage” job for a public employer, where the more important thing is that I’m there for a certain period of time that’s basically Bank Hours.

  • At this rate we may well see a day when a huge chunk of the white collar workforce experiences simultaneous burn out and decides it is going to spend a few years fishing.

    • DrS

      I was so burnt out right before my last layoff, I was actually happy to be laid off.

    • anon

      Carpal tunnel syndrome may preclude fishing

  • RobNYNY1957

    There have always been jobs that never end. Hospitals, hotels, etc. I was born onto a dairy farm, and the the work ethic there prepared me well for client-based work in New York City. Dairy cattle don’t go on vacation, they don’t care who gets married, and they don’t care who dies. They need to be milked. They calve. They get bloat. They knock down fences and wander around highways. At night.

    • Malaclypse

      We can all see your dumbprints Jennie.

      • Malaclypse

        Man, I really loom large in your little world, don’t I, sweetie. Enjoy the nym-jacking while you can.

      • RobNYNY1957

        Can someone explain to me what this means? I have the feeling that it is a slight, but I don’t understand the comment.

        • Jenny heard that LGM is strongly considering going to a registered comment system, which will ruin his impotent funtimes, so he’s having a bit of a freakout, namejacking Mal, and accusing everyone of being Jenny.

          • RobNYNY1957

            Thanks for that.

          • DrDick

            I think he is throwing a temper tantrum at the idea that we are trying to ignore him and will soon lock him out.

    • Brett

      If you have a job that never ends, you hire more people so you can have round the clock coverage. Sometimes you also need to go further and be ready to be “called-in” (like with hospital doctors), but they pay you to be on-call IIRC.

  • LosGatosCA

    Here’s a man who was a visionary, at the time the GM of a billion dollar business. I showed him my brand new HP laptop in 1986 when he was in my office showing him how I could do email from home at 19200 baud.

    His reaction was classic: ‘Email from home? That’s too bad.’

    • efgoldman

      ‘Email from home? That’s too bad.’

      It’s how I’ve kept in touch with my daughter, daily, since she went away to college in 1999.

  • Joshua

    Somewhat predictably, most of the comments in that article are all about bootstrap-pullin’ and how they walked uphill both ways to become successful in 1986 and kids these days with droopy pants and rap music and the bippin and the boppin just don’t get it. We really are a country of frogs in boiling water, I wonder when we’ll realize it.

  • jon

    I was put on this earth, to collaborate on spreadsheets in the Cloud with a Project Team I’ve never met, and whose names I don’t know. I don’t have an office, cubicle or desk. I’m free to work anywhere i want, that has wifi. I don’t know where the company I work for is. I just get credits added to my debit card if they like what I’ve done.

    I can work on my work from anywhere in the world, at any time, whenever I feel like it. I can be brought in on a conference call while I’m on the toilet, trying to pass the kidney stone. I can be trekking in Nepal, and join an urgent project implementation meeting. The edited proofs of the new advertising campaign will be the first thing my newborn child sees. I’ve never been so productive.

    • efgoldman

      I can be brought in on a conference call while I’m on the toilet, trying to pass the kidney stone. I can be trekking in Nepal, and join an urgent project implementation meeting.

      And you think this is a good thing? FSM help us!

      • Brett

        Some people love that freelance/independent contractor stuff. Just look at the freelance reporters out there.

    • Linnaeus

      I can be brought in on a conference call while I’m on the toilet…

      Is your boss LBJ? Oh, wait, that’s when he was on the toilet.

  • LosGatosCA

    I worked at GE when 4mB of RAM was the size of a counter depth refrigerator, and no one with any ambition worked 40 hours a week then either. One particular manager I had came in every Saturday for as long as his boss and his boss’s boss were in the office. Almost all the time catching up on reading the Wall Street Journal issues from the prior week.

    I went in a few times and then I finally asked why he came into work just to read the papers who could easily take home. His answer: If the group controller (who’s in 7 days a week) has a question for our division manager and he asks my boss for an explanation, he’s going to want my help getting the ‘right’ answer and I better be here to help.’

    Fast forward a few months, I’ve rotated out to a branch plant and I’m in the weekly production meeting. The plant manager is explaining to his floor supervisors how a specific tooling account is running very high and has received the attention of (wait for it) the group controller who was informed by (you guessed it) my previous manager and his boss that our plant was running hot in this particular area. Now these guys are all production and mechanical engineers so they don’t give a crap about the accounting. So the plant manager instructs them to use another account, until further notice, that gets reported through a different line item so that these ‘fuckers’ can shift their attention somewhere else.

    And I am LMFAO as I think of all that Saturday ‘analysis ‘ that just went to waste.

    • mikeSchilling

      I worked at Chevron when 56K of RAM (who needed the full 64K? That shit costs money!) was the size of a walk-in freezer. Honestly, kids these days with their “megabytes” and their “floppy disks”.

  • tt

    The article is useless. They don’t even link to the survey, so no way to evaluate its methodology.

    Is it really true that people are working longer due to “technology”? What evidence for this is there? What is the appropriate point of comparison? Many jobs have had an expectation of >40 hr work weeks for a long time.

  • junker

    As a college instructor, the advent of email has meant that my students expect me to be available 24/7 about any little thing on their minds. It drives me crazy.

  • If you work for some sort of tech company, if you can avoid it, do not ever let them know your cell phone number. When I worked for a TLA company, they somehow got my cell number, and had some bozo call me when I was out of town on vacation, asking me stupid questions about the project’s source control system.

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  • bobbo

    I am a legal secretary in Los Angeles and they don’t LET us work more than 37.5 hours. They require us to take a minimum 1/2 hour lunch. We could not even access the firm Citrix if we wanted to and cannot be reached at our firm email address outside of the office. Of course the lawyers are tethered to work 24/7 but they make a shitload of money and they can choose to ignore their emails (at their own risk – depends how ambitious they are.) I guess I should feel lucky.

  • actor212

    Years ago, I told my boss I would quit if forced to get a Blackberry.

    So guess who’s last day is next Thursday? :-)

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