FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, May 09, 2005

When the Rat Race Never Ends

The prevalence of instant electronic communications -- e-mail, cell phones, IMs and the like -- combined with the need to work with global business partners who are many time zones away, has created an atmosphere of "work creep," especially in tech centers such as Silicon Valley. Teams that manage outsourced workers in Asia are the most prone to this sort of hyper-extended workday, as they frequently hold teleconferences in the middle of the night, after their usual workday.

As a result, human resource experts are increasingly concerned about worker burnout. Some managers have taken creative approaches to manage the workload, rotating teams so that workers aren't on-call all the time. But others are starting to see high turnover and other signs of discontent, and such stress is causing some executives to question the productive value of offshoring.

Worker advocates are drawing parallels between the present situation and that of "speedup" attempted by the auto industry in the 1920s. Then, auto assembly lines were accelerated, but workers were not paid more for their increased effort. Some say that the stress caused by speedup led directly to worker unrest and the labor union movement.

Source: AP (Excite)