Friday, May 25, 2018

Unassigned desks, Time trackers? Maybe Now Is The Time To Leave The Corporate Work Force - If You Can!


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The news (WSJ, May 17, p. A14,  May 21, p. B3) that employers have new tricks up their slimy sleeves to make their employees' lives miserable, didn't really catch me by surprise. I was already aware, for example, of the changes implemented barely 6 years ago, for "open seating" and transparent walls - so the CEO snoops and bosses can keep steady eyes on their staff, e.g.


This followed an earlier atrocity when corporate workers had their personal offices demolished, making way for cubicles, aka "cubes" ca. 1994, 

From that point, the corner office for an ordinary corporate employee evidently went the way of the Dodo. The American office worker was expected to continue to produce outstanding work in his open cube while within earshot of some bozo yammering on his cell phone to his honey, another character gorging on sardines and munching them loudly while smacking lips and two others chattering away to each other about "American Idol".

Now, however, we learn corporate employers have engineered even more abominations to drive their staffs nuts.  The latest is to remove defined personal desks and keep them "floating", hence, no personal space to do one's corporate work. If you maybe come in early you might get a desk and chair, else it's catch as catch can.  As one worker put it:  "Don't be late or you could end up seated next to the dumpster."

According to the first WSJ piece cited ('Don't Get Used To Your Own Desk'):

"Employers are replacing traditional one-desk per employee setups with a smaller number of first come, first served desks - plus additional workspaces with names like 'huddle rooms' and 'touchdown spaces'. Some 25 percent of employers are placing at least some employees in unassigned seating and 52 percent of the rest plan to in three years, according to a survey of 138 employers by the real estate service CBRE, and CoreNet Global."


The article goes on to note that "some employees embrace the flexibility and ambience of unassigned seating" - generally the Young Turks, Millennials  (who love the 'liberating' atmosphere) and those ambulatory slackers who just hate staying in one place to work. But many others, mostly older with families,  find it a "wrenching change".  Well, duh! You are basically destroying the employee's personal, individual work space and converting it into a 'free for all'  area. It absolutely would enrage any older worker  - who is also now being advised (WSJ, May 22, p. A9) to "change dress styles to what is currently in vogue" such as older, still working males now advised to wear stove pipe trousers and replacing tie-lace  shoes with those with Monk straps. Seriously? 

Obviously, the new seating brain fart is the deformed "offspring" of some overpaid corporate CEOs - still toked up from their corporate tax cuts and stock buyback binges. This novel un-seating plan also  leaves no possibility to secure the items at one's desk, because one has no fixed desk to call one's own.  The CEOs are gracious, bless their venal little hearts, because they realize this no-fixed seating scenario will require "a little etiquette training". Really?   Who'd have thought?

What about the employees who for one reason or other end up with no seats or desks? Well, one CEO suggested they can always bring a cushion from home or maybe pillow, and park near the restroom. Or, they can go to a (smaller space)  "huddle room" with fifteen or twenty others, to thrash out some current issues, just don't bring anything else as there will be no room.

One manager admitted the change is trying for some "older traditionalists"  who "have aspired to a corner office for their entire career".   Maybe  they aspired to a corner office like one I used to have at my final corporate gig, e.g. before leaving to write books, text books,

Of course, having such a spacious office, nearly 250 sq. feet  - with
ample desk,  swivel chair, filing cabinets, credenza  etc. -  was necessary. At the time my job was to prepare technical documents to do with stereotactic radiosurgery software.  We called these extensive,  regulatory compliance documents, 510 (k)s. 

So a personal large desk was required with ample, spacious drawers to keep all the background material, including applicable research for the sites,  radiation parameters for the device, and software module specifics,  in one place.

Doing this type of critical job (I'd left university teaching 4 years earlier  after being frustrated by the built -in grade inflation using "teacher evaluations") necessitated a separate, corner office work area, including file cabinet, proper desk and all the rest. Trying to do what I was doing in a pathetic,  floating, unassigned desk domain would simply not have worked.

But given these (mainly) older guys aren't getting that corner office after all has engendered issues for the HR departments, managers and others. Including one cited -  a Donna Burnell -   who "encourages resistors to see the redesign as bringing the comforts of home into the office with multiple choices of seating and décor".

Transl. If you don't like the fact you have no fixed desk or chair you can amble over to our cozy huddle rooms where your co-workers are squatting on cushions. Or check out the different décor venues in other conveniently located tiny rooms- some sporting fake Picassos-  that might have a spare cushion lying around.

And where do employees now put their assorted stuff if they have no fixed desk? Well, in lockers,  of course!  They are small, practical and employees can fit just about anything they need to into them including their bag lunches,  Ipads, and even a book -if they still read (and assuming they can find the time).  A hall full of lockers that greets employees at one Dallas insurance company is shown below:
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Obviously, this sort of arrangement is going to piss off a lot of folks, though the article claims only 11 percent of employers "meet resistance from employees". According to one manager:

"Some people don't really want a locker. They want a desk for pictures of their family ...and a sense of what's mine."

Really?  But see the big shots at Corporate Central Inc. don't give two craps about your sense of what's yours or the notion of personal space. They just want to save money, i.e. increase corporate profits.  Oh, but they are generous!  Some anyway. At least nine percent of the employers surveyed  said they are committed to "providing etiquette training to curb behaviors like squatting or usurping shared space for oneself".   Hmmm... how about ancillary training to avoid going postal or psychotic in such a work place?

But hold strain. These new seating -desk arrangements don't tell half the story of the new order of corporate abuse. Oh no. Now the corporate CEO  devils - apologies to Austan Goolsbee (recent WaPo op-ed)  for my Manichean framing -  are also using time trackers to ding workers so they can dock their pay. ('Workers Challenge Time Trackers', WSJ May 21).

Across years of employment this can result in "thousands of dollars deducted from paychecks."  Example:

"Nurses have said they spend meal breaks tending to patients but automatically receive a 30 minute deduction from every shift."

In other words, the  auto "time tracker" deducts the time, say for lunch, whether the nurse actually takes it or not. The domination of dumb tech thanks to penny pinching, tyrannical CEOs.   We also learned:

"The systems are capable of calculating employee's pay to the second but employers are attracted to such features as rounding and automatic time deductions because they help keep labor predictable and free managers from having to take time to record every break."

Transl. The devices enable the managers to dispense with tedious break monitoring so they can let their machines screw their workers out of their hard- earned pay, under the name of efficiency. 

You'd be amazed to read the bollocks PR baloney spouted by some of these high- on- their- horse CEOs, like one who insisted (ibid.):

"We put devices with rounding mechanisms into place to be sure to pay only for the hours of a scheduled shift, not to avoid paying for the time worked."

Well, save that for the HR peanut gallery, do. The fact that worker lawsuits are now being mounted, one already settled for $450,000, shows the "plebes" are not really buying that balderdash. And good for them!

Little wonder so many people now - if they can - are bailing out of the corporate workforce, especially with these draconian new tactics to edge workers into psychosis or an early grave. Many are now adopting the F.I.R.E. path:  "Financial independence, retire early"  -  leaving corporate employment  permanently as young as age 35 or 40.

More about this movement and how it works in a future post.
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2 comments:

Darrin Rychlak said...

Another great post Sir. I've been away for a while and I have to catch up. But I will.

The marginalization and castration of the American worker has been an ongoing process since the country's inception. It's done to ensure control of the workforce in service of the supreme goal--maximize profit.

Control starts and ends with fear. Tie health insurance to the job. Depersonalize the worker's sense of welfare and supplant it with the company's own drive for success (aside: these fuckers want you to work on your lunch, work late, work at home, work on vacation, work sick and ultimately choose work over family and/or your own personal welfare). 'At will' employment means your ass is always on the chopping block for younger, cheaper workers and you can be fired for anything. Believe me, Big Business knows how to massage discrimination barriers.

The result? An atomized workforce where it's 'every man for himself', always on the cusp of redundancy and existing at the caprice of management.

There is a solution. I don't cotton to tyranny in my politics and I sure as shit don't like it in my economics. The corporation has to die. It is total top down control--the essence of tyranny. And the profit motive for its own sake should die as well. Lest we have prisons for profit, rampant child and slave labor, and the destruction of our environmental commons for private financial gain. We have that of course.

I'd like to think that more democracy in our economics and politics would be a good thing. Then I think of the masochistic right wing authoritarian 30% of our population that loves the ravaging of a strong leader (see Trump). And even democracy gives me pause in that light. But that's fundamental tension of life and I'd rather have more voices than fewer deciding our fate.

That being said, I made an ironic political humor web site. I hope you enjoy it.

https://www.schmerltzmag.com/

I show it to my brother in Elkhorn WI...and that's about it. It makes me laugh.

I hope your health is good and continues to be so.

Darrin


Copernicus said...

Very well put summary of what's undermining the American workforce. Thanks also for the link. Well worth a look in these trying (Trumpian) times!