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Is Technology Killing Leisure Time?

JonKatz posted more than 14 years ago | from the a-wired-up-world-where-work-never-ends dept.

Technology 344

New surveys suggest that ubiquitous technological tools are killing off leisure time, especially for younger workers and students -- that would be you -- who are working longer hours, taking fewer and shorter vacations (when they do go away, they take their cells, Palms and laptops along) and say they are more stressed than any other segment of the population. Opportunistic employers aren't helping, actually encouraging employees to do personal chores on the Net -- from their desks. Wasn't technology supposed to free us from workplace shackles?

Americans for centuries have believed that new labor saving devices will free us from the burdens of the workplace and give us more time to ponder philosophy, goof off, explore the arts, and hang around with friends and family.

So here we are at the start of the 21st Century, enjoying one of the greatest technological boom times in human history, and nothing could be further from the truth.

The very tools that were supposed to liberate us have bound us to our work (and schools) in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago. But technology almost never does what we expect.

Almost all of us -- especially the people reading this -- have less leisure time than ever. We work harder, take fewer vacations for shorter periods of time, report more stress than almost any other demographic group and find the boundaries between work and play increasingly blurred. Computing and communications technologies are destroying the idea of privacy and leisure.

According to a new study reported in the July issue of American Demographics magazine, as the distinctions between home and the workplace fade, more and more of us go online from our offices to buy the things and perform the tasks we used to do when we got home. At first, employers were wary of workers going on the Net. But they've learned to love and encourage it, since it keeps employees chained to their desks for longer hours.

In l999, the researchers report, 19 percent of the total population had Net access at work, compared with just seven percent in l996. Employers, who now expect workers to be available for longer periods, understand that they have to let them to do their chores online. At work, Net surfers go first to news, information and entertainment sites. Then they hit search engines, marketing/corporate sites, sex sites and retailing shopping sites, in that order.

But there's a huge trade off for this convenience. Inforum's l999 Survey from the MEDSTAT group, reports American Demographics, found that adults aged 35 and younger were the most stressed people in the population. Nearly seven in 10 said they were "somewhat" to "extremely" stressed, an astonishing contrast to adults over 65: 31 percent of them said they had almost no stress in their lives at all.

More than a third of adults under the age of 25 say they don't get enough sleep most or all of the time. No wonder. More than half of them report that they didn't have time to take a vacation, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. When younger people do travel, they don't take much of a break: 42 percent of travelers who go away for just a weekend are aged 18 to 34 -- the largest share of any single demographic group. Of course, maybe they have less disposable income or have young children they can't leave for long. But if you think about people you know in this age group, it's also obvious that they have trouble disconnecting from work, thanks mostly to technology, and they're also afraid to show employers that they're not indispensable. It may also be true that openly or not, more employers expect their workers to be around all the time.

Before the Net, cell phones and Palms, the lines between work and leisure time were markedly clearer. People left their offices at a predictable time, were often completely disconnected from and out-of-touch with their jobs as they traveled to and from work, and were off-duty once they were home. That' s no longer true. Even in a competitive job market, employers expect workers to put in longer hours and to be available almost constantly via fax, cell, e-mail or other communications devices. Bosses, colleagues and family members -- lovers, buddies and spouses too -- expect instant responses to voice-and e-mail messages.

Employers have thus begun to pay the small price of allowing their round-the-clock workers to shop and communicate online, found the AD study.

The American Demographic report validates the suspicion that corporatist employers are taking advantage of new technologies and of workers' anxieties to demand longer hours and increased productivity -- the very things new technologies were supposed to liberate people from.

Although there are no known studies relating to college students and their work hours, it seems they are also bound to their desks and dorms by environments in which faculty, friends and other members of the college community increasingly do their work online. Studies of time spent on instant messaging services would probably show staggering use. And research possibilities online are boundless.

Few of us manage to buck this trend, apart from some neo-Luddites. Half of all Americans now own a cell phone, and more than 46 per cent of pleasure travelers take their phones with them when they go away, reports the Travel Industry Association. More than 18 per cent take their pagers and 6 per cent their laptops, while 10 per cent check e-mail on vacation. Younger Americans are living in a hyperactive information culture.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40 per cent of men worked more than 40 hours a week in l998, an increase of 5 percentage points in the last two decades. As for women, 22 per cent worked more than 40 hours aweek, compared with just 14 per cent in 1979.

So it's not surprising that a l998 General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that more than 40 per cent of American workers say they come home from work exhausted, up from 36 per cent in l989. Young married couples report that they work an average 26 per cent more hours each year than they did 30 years ago.

Aside from long hours, the nature of work has changed. Economist and author Richard Sennett (The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism) and Joanne B. Ciulla (The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work), point out changes in the nature of work itself.

"Flexible" work projects, the growing number of part-time workers, and a culture that embraces and even celebrates continuous layoffs, down-sizings and re-engineerings have rendered almost everyone's work life stressful and unstable. Workers work harder and longer, move more often, change their work tasks more frequently, and are nevertheless constantly subject to dismissal or its threat.

This isn't what technology is supposed to be doing for us. New technologies, from genetic research to the Net, offer all sorts of benefits and opportunities. But when new tools make life more difficult and stressful rather than easier and more meaningful -- and we are, as a society, barely conscious of it -- then something has gone seriously awry, both with our expectations for technology and our understanding of how it works.

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Enjoy life! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#942898)

Fuuuuckkk that!

I'm a programmer. I work a strict 40 hour work week. Any more than that and I'm getting paid *a lot*. No PDA. No cell phone. Not even a pager. Free time is a hell of a lot more valuable than cash. You only get to be young for a while, so you better enjoy it. Don't stress yourself over other people's problems. In the big scheme of things, the project plan really isn't all that important.

Live, damnit! Live!

Re:This is exactly... (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 14 years ago | (#942902)

Posted by Charlza:

I'm proud to say that I've been taking more 'me time.' I don't sit around reading email and security logs every night/weekend. I actually take...*gasp* breaks now. I leave me beeper at home when I go out with friends and I COMPLETELY refuse to purchase a PDA. Take your job serious, but life's too short to waste it away on work.

BTW, I was on a break when I typed this :p

The death of leisure time & armchair Marxists (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 14 years ago | (#942908)

At one time, it was believed that leisure time enable the underclasses to plot against their oppressors. If you worked a man 10-12 hours a day in the mine, he had no time (or energy) that could be diverted into revolutionary thoughts. He was simply "too tired" to throw off the bounds of his oppressors. After all, "idle hands do the devil's work." Leisure time on sundays is most expeditiously removed through long sermons...

Conversely, it was Marcuse's view that the creation of leisure activities does much to stabilize an "advanced capitalist" society. If the working day is reduced to eight hours, but societal pressures are able to fill that void with recreational activities, the worker is satisfied by a marginally better working environment but does not spend the excess time in a politically transormative manner.

(Hey, Marcuse should have at least, if not more credibility than Ayn Rand)

Say more... (1)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#942916)


about the post.industrial economy, plse..You mean we are moving towards it now?

Unplugging and consequences (1)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#942917)



Interesting posts, thank..I wonder exactly what the consequences of unplugging are? Do people lose their jobs? fall behind? Miss lots of important advances?

Trackman,.. (1)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#942918)



I did work as a trackman, as it happens, for two summers in New England. Made a ton of money, too, though I made more driving a truck with the Teamsters the next two summers. And no, I'm not a communist. Very repulsive ideology for me. What this has to do with my column is completely beyond me. But yes, absolutely, greed is a very important factor, both from the employee and employer level.

Re:got kids.. (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | more than 14 years ago | (#942925)

Amen, brother. Amen!

I find that it's not work that's taking up my time. My feeling is that if I'm working more than 40 hours a week (crunch time excluded) then my company needs to hire additional engineers. I generally leave on time.

The kids, on the other hand... Oy! I love 'em, and I love being with 'em. But it's work to look after a hyperactive (literally) seven-year-old and an inquisitive two-year-old. Most nights I crash shortly after I get them into bed. Little energy vampires, the lot of 'em!

I occasionally have to go out of town for a week at a time on business. Those days consist of a 12-hour debugging session, dinner, and maybe a little reading or TV. And my wife gripes because I'm getting a vacation!

So no, technology isn't robbing me of my life. Taking care of personal business at work via the web actually frees up my time and lets me spend more of it doing what I want to do.

Re:It's a Personal Decision and Needs Incentive (1)

Tenareth (17013) | more than 14 years ago | (#942928)

Maybe some of us like getting large raises instead of a 1 or 2% COLA?


-- Keith Moore

retired people have less stress? (1)

chacal (18745) | more than 14 years ago | (#942929)

"that adults aged 35 and younger were the most stressed people in the population. Nearly seven in 10 said they were "somewhat" to "extremely" stressed, an astonishing contrast to adults over 65: 31 percent of them said they had almost no stress in their lives at all. "

Gee, what a useful statistic for katz to quote. retired people have more stress in their lives than those who work. wow. A comparison to say, the 35-50 age group would have been a lot more fair, and probably would have done a better job of making his point.

Other than that, I do agree with most of the article. I often feel like it's tough to escape my work, whether it's (almost) always being reachable via my cell, or bringing work home with me (well, leaving it at work and sshing in)..But that's ok, because I really like what i'm doing. Isn't that what's most important? if you like your work, it ceases to be work..

Do I have the time? (1)

angelo (21182) | more than 14 years ago | (#942931)

I tend to think that I have the time to do as I please, and I interact heavily with computers for most of it. My palm pilot is used as an information storage device. I use it to take notes, phone numbers, and e-cards of other palm owners. I don't use it to plan my time, keep work related material or anything of the sort. I take it with me wherever I go because the only numbers I can remember are IP addresses.

My computer is there for me when I get home, and I live in an apartment which leaves me with no yardwork. I enjoy simple meals, which are quick and easy to prepare.

I have no cellphone, because I consider them to be as much use as a land line. They are an intrusion, and any calls I get are some form of sales call. I only speak to three or four people at lengths of more than 3 minutes. The rest of the people I speak to are through IRC, ICQ or *gasp* real life.

My weekends are spent with my family for the most part, and I consider them more important than any technology I own. I don't feel disconnected or antisocial, in fact I dedicate this time because I consider it central in my life.

Still, I can see how technology would affect people to the degree that they have no life or leisure. When I take vacations (rarely) I go to porchville, or take care of things which need to be done. I may take a trip to a state park to relax.

I do not usually take a week off since I would become beyond stir-crazy with cabin fever. I rarely leave the state when I take time off because I've already visited about 19 of them, including the ones surrounding me.

The big problem is that vacations cost money, and I have constraints to that end of investment in my retirement, rent, and car/insurance payments. There is not much left after living bled the life out of you, not to mention taxes.

Am I unhappy? Nope, I'm quite satisfied actually. I think I find my escape on the net in new information, fiction, fact and opinion. I somehow don't feel the need to go to Rennes Le Chateau because I already know my way around town, have seen pictures of almost every square inch of it, and the complete history of the town. Not much more but to see it for myself.

I am happy with the life and leisure I choose

Technology - what doesn't work (1)

webster (22696) | more than 14 years ago | (#942935)

Scott Adams once defined high tech as stuff that doesn't work. We spend so much time messing with technology because that what it takes to get it to work. One of these days, it'll all come together and start working right. And then the quality of my life, at least, will diminish. I "work" long hours because I love what I do and wouldn't rather be doing anything else. On the other hand, I've long since learned to respect geek fatigue, and to solve problems by sleeping on them.

Anyone who hasn't should read The Soul of a New Machine and take the lessons therein to heart. Nobody is going to be greatful for the hours you put in at work. There will be no reward in the future. Working in high tech is like play professional sports. Unless you're one of the few who make the big bucks, if you're not having fun it just isn't worth the effort. If you don't love what you do, you ought to find something to do that's a whole lot easier.


Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation

This will let us work longer, but from home. (1)

omenoracle (29659) | more than 14 years ago | (#942940)

I work from my home and I think that extended hours are worth the ability to telecommute. This means that when I have children, they will never have to come home to an empty house. I feel that is worth losing sleep, and increasing my stress. Its a trade off of one thing for another, and I am willing to make that trade. If someone doesn't want to work more than 40 hours a week, they can get a job that doesn't ask that of them.

Did Katz just see office space for the first time or something?

"You can sleep more when you're dead."

Finally Jon!! (1)

mberkow (30098) | more than 14 years ago | (#942942)

Finally a JonKatz editorial that reports facts and other peoples opinions, while allowing us to form our own.

snip
validates the suspicion that corporatist employers are taking advantage of new technologies and of workers' anxieties to demand longer hours and increased productivity
snip

I wonder if corporatist employers are actively taking advantage of this phenomenon or just rejoicing in the added productivity it gives them??

Shorter Holidays in BC (1)

_J_ (30559) | more than 14 years ago | (#942943)


I seem to recall that the government of BC wanted to exempt high tech employers in BC from minimum holiday requirements. Never heard if that went through. Now that would bother me.

I'm lucky, I work in a nice environment and am expected to put in my 37.5 per week. The job is still stressfull, tho'.

Just a thought

J:)

Re:Air Traffic Controllers are Stressed (1)

Pathetic Coward (33033) | more than 14 years ago | (#942949)

I know an air traffic controller. He loves his job. All day playing giant video games ...

Amazing... (1)

DoktorMel (35110) | more than 14 years ago | (#942951)

Katz has discovered the work of Swedish economist Staffan Linder. Before reading this article, you really should read The Harried Leisure Class which is sadly out of print.

control of your own life (1)

Staciebeth (40574) | more than 14 years ago | (#942956)

Ummm...people do have control over their lives. No one forces people to buy expensive houses/cars/toys or to work at the kind of jobs required to sustain that lifestyle. If your job makes you too stressed -- find another one, change your lifestyle. OK, that sounds over-simplified, but I left a career I hated with hours that were making me miserable (professional theatre) so I know it can be done.

Re:It's all relative... (1)

NetCurl (54699) | more than 14 years ago | (#942964)

I too would detest the situations I believe you are refering to. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Putting it in that light, I think we're better off in our new cars, with our cell phones, and our laptops.

Stress is a state of mind, even if you have a lot to do, a lot of stress comes from worrying about the little things. Put it all in prespective and relax.

tech and slack (1)

The Queen (56621) | more than 14 years ago | (#942966)

Take a month off from IRC and watch your RL relationships get back to a normal level.

Ironically, I use IRC to keep in touch with my RL friends...most live within a 20 mile radius but we have some stragglers in Switzerland and Colorado (I'm on the east coast). We chat in person about as often as we do online.

Back OnT, I HOPE that we're just going through an intense implimentation phase with current technologies, and that once everyone is connected and savvy, we can start to do more telecommuting and work smarter...pipe dream, perhaps, but it's the ethic I share with my friends (who are also my business partners). Generation X is still about slack, right? ;-)

The Divine Creatrix in a Mortal Shell that stays Crunchy in Milk

It's a Personal Decision and Needs Incentive (1)

EverCode (60025) | more than 14 years ago | (#942968)

A person is only required to work 40 hours a week, unless you have a bad contract or something.

If you choose not to work overtime, there is nothing the company can do about it. If they try to get rid of you because of it... it's time for a lawsuit, that you will easily win.

My father is a mechanic at a factory. For hours he works > 40, he gets 1.5 of his normal pay. That means he makes $30 per hour instead of $20 for any extra time. Heck, he gets double-time on Sundays.

People that are working overtime in a salary position are getting screwed. If you are gonna work overtime, get a new conract that actually rewards you for your extra work.

If that don't work, get the UAW to help you out ;-)


"...we are moving toward a Web-centric stage and our dear PC will be one of

Don't worry... (1)

ktakki (64573) | more than 14 years ago | (#942975)

It's just an aberration, a temporary backslide on the path of Progress. Soon enough our robot masters^W servants will perform all necessary tasks, leaving us humans free to do the one thing we never seem to tire of:

Breed.

k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

If you're stressed... (1)

Panamon777 (78286) | more than 14 years ago | (#942984)

...just take the time to relax. Most people who are "stressed" create the stress for themselves. They skip lunch to work, and often eat fast food for dinner. Studies have shown that the quality of work done beyond 40 hours/week is not very high. If people get to work at 8 am, stay till 6 pm, then feel the need watch Letterman and the 1 am airing of SportsCenter, then they shouldn't complain about lack of sleep. It's fairly obvious where they could cut some things out of their schedule.

Few of us manage to buck this trend, apart from some neo-Luddites. Half of all Americans now own a cell phone, and more than 46 per cent of pleasure travelers take their phones with them when they go away, reports the Travel Inustry Association. More than 18 per cent take their pagers and 6 per cent their laptops, while 10 per cent check e-mail on vacation. Younger Americans are living in a hyperactive information culture.

I'm not sure how Katz went from "10 percent can check email on vacation" to "hyperactive information culture" quite so quickly. 90% of Americans can't check email on vacation. The reason that most people take cell phones and whatnot with them everywhere they go - most people, not all - is because it lets them feel important. "I have a cell phone, because people far away might need me." Riiight...

The cell-phone yuppies are the ones who complain of being stressed out. How many of them have tried to cut back on work, and go for a bike ride a few times per week? A few minutes in a quiet wooded area would eliminate most stress for most people.

The challenge might be finding a wooded area, but that's another topic entirely.

Loosing Leisure Time. (1)

Carthain (86046) | more than 14 years ago | (#942995)

Am I the only one who doesn't seem to be loosing their leisure time? For me, the distinction between work or school, and free/leisure time is very distinct.

When I'm at work, I do whatever I can to get my work done & looking nice (currently a web site design/maint/admin) in an efficient manner. However, I rarely "take any work home to do." By the time I get home, I really don't want to think about work anymore... 8hours of work + 1 hour, 15 min commute there & back... it really doesn't make me feel all that willing to do anything else.

When I'm at school, it's similar, but slightly different. I have my assignments that I have to do at home, but once they're done - or while I'm procrastinating... I do that lots. - my time is my own. I'll do whatever I want.

My biggest problem is that some of my interests that I do during my leisure time relate, if not are exactly the same, as what I do at work/school. As I said, I'm currently working as a web page design/maint/admin, and I also run my own web site for fun (still trying to set it up nicely). At school, I'm in a computers course... and my courses include stuff like learning how to network computers, programming, and using *nix. Lets see, what do I do during my free time at home? I'm in charge of my home network, I occationally make small programs to do simple tasks, and I like experimenting with linux.

One of the few things I like doing during my spare time that doesn't relate to work/school is playing games.

But still, while my leisure activities and school/work activities relate, I'm quite specific on when I'll do my school/work activities. To me, there is a very distinct line between them, and I don't let work/school interfere with it. I just value it too much.

That's a bit of a clich (1)

dopolon (88100) | more than 14 years ago | (#942999)

It's true, but this idea has been around for quite a while now, so I am a bit surprised to see it here as a editorial. I mean, the real issue is whether we regard work the same way our elders did (mostly a way to earn money and make a living), or an activity similar to what you would do on your spare time. Some people (ie. geeks) enjoy doing what they do at work as much as what they do at home, so we shouldn't wonder whether it's the technological tools that make this happen but rather ask : why do we tend to be interested equally (or more) in our work than in our "leisure time" activities ?
Nevertheless, I tend to agree that this has been used as some kind of ideology to get people to work for companies tremendously (even when they get few/no stock options).

Work/home separation (1)

ganley (88666) | more than 14 years ago | (#943000)

A bunch of people have already pointed out how much "work" time most of us spend goofing off -- playing games, surfing the web, having nerf gun wars, whatever. I just wanted to chime in that the traditional separation of work and home is, IMHO, artificial and not particularly useful. I telecommute full-time, so my time is all my own, in a sense. As a result, I am very conscious of the work/home/leisure decisions I make. That is, time I spend surfing isn't just killing time until the whistle blows, it's time that I could just as easily be spending playing with my kid, or getting my work done so I can knock off early. It puts a really interesting perspective on things when the only thing that matters is getting your day's work done.

Joe Ganley

This is exactly... (1)

orangecat (98507) | more than 14 years ago | (#943011)

This is exactly why I'm questioning a career in the computer industry. Sure, it pays well. Sure, I love working with computers. But most people I know in IT, particularly those in system administration (my main interest), are completely tied to their jobs. They work 100 hour weeks, rarely get a full night's sleep because of calls at 2 am, and can't get away for a weekend vacation because some emergency comes up at work.

My time is worth more to me than that.

I'm just glad I have other interests to fall back on if/when I get tired of the masochism that is IT.

Re:It's a Personal Decision and Needs Incentive (1)

Harri (100020) | more than 14 years ago | (#943014)

If you choose not to work overtime, there is nothing the company can do about it. If they try to get rid of you because of it... it's time for a lawsuit, that you will easily win.

There's plenty they can do. They can pass you over for promotion, give you crap pay rises, and always give you the dog-ends of work that nobody else wants. They (your colleagues on the late-running project, not just your boss) can also make it abundantly clear that you are not pulling your weight, and you are letting everyone else down. Supposing you were on a such a project. Would you honestly go home every day at 5 if everyone in your team was working their backsides off to get the code out?

Re:Not for you to decide... (1)

AntiMac (100361) | more than 14 years ago | (#943015)

I didn't really self-censor it, at least I didn't mean to. I was just trying to point out my point of view: Technology, to me, is work, play and everything in between. I should never be taken seriously :)

========== .sig
Intelligence should not be rewarded; ignorance should be punished

Wrong place for this article.... (1)

AntiMac (100361) | more than 14 years ago | (#943016)

This is Slashdot....Technology is liesure time! :)

========== .sig
Intelligence should not be rewarded; ignorance should be punished

Re:It's a Personal Decision and Needs Incentive (1)

DunLurkin (125146) | more than 14 years ago | (#943036)

The world you describe has NOTHING in common with the life of engineers and computer scientists in the US.
Technical professionals are so-called "exempt" workers and are not protected by wage and hour laws. Contracts are also rarely encountered in these professions.

Re:Lies, Damned lies.... (1)

BgJonson79 (129962) | more than 14 years ago | (#943042)

I would say that of those remaining 30%, about all of them have some stress and maybe 1% of the total have no stress at all.

Speak for yourself JonKatz! (1)

fleener (140714) | more than 14 years ago | (#943049)

especially for younger workers and students -- that would be you

Speak for yourself. I'm an old coot [dictionary.com] .

it's not technology (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 14 years ago | (#943053)

The only technology that really caused this problem is the light bulb; in the Olden Days people would knock off work much earlier, and even if they stayed "late" it would get too dark to work. Nowadays the problem is businesses who like to pay one employee and get the work of two. They do this by implying that it's how you advance in your career, as well as throwing in a false sense of urgency ("Just this one big project and life will be easier" or "just wait till the IPO and you'll work less"). If anything, technology has made working a little less numbing; no more trips to the fax machine, fewer phone calls, and if things get too stressed you can read slashdot for a bit...

Draw the line (1)

SupahVee (146778) | more than 14 years ago | (#943058)

....and don't let anyone cross it. Period.

One of the reasons I can bear my ridculously stupid job is that I have vents to relax, most of which do not involve a computer at all. I ride my mtn bike, I walk my huskies, I take vacations, twice a year, and the only reason I bring my cell is because it is a convenience, and handy for emergencies.

Don't let work encroach on your personal life, especially when you choose to be doing something else. When I am riding, my boss cant get ahold of me, my WIFE even knows its pretty much futile to try to reach me when I am out. When I am done, thats when I'll be back to deal with all of the s**t of life, and no sooner.

I have to keep an eye on myself, and my s/o does it for me as well, to not let myself get burned out on work. I like what I do for a living, but its not the only thing I want to do in life. Just my 0000 0010 cents worth.

work is the problem (1)

crazy_speeder (155626) | more than 14 years ago | (#943063)

work is cutting into my leisure time. and since i work in technology, i guess your right.

Fatigue toxins (1)

KhaliF (160350) | more than 14 years ago | (#943066)

I myself quit working and became a student for just the reasons above
- too much stress, and it was taking the fun out of my net :)

Seriously though, I ended up working from wherever the internet was, wherever a box with SSH
could 'jack me in' so to speak, it just all got a bit much - now I try to enjoy my net,
and keep work as seperate as possible (not easy for a CGI/perl coder though eh?) :)

Coffee GOOD - COFFEE GOOD!

The secret is finding the right job... (1)

chowda (161971) | more than 14 years ago | (#943071)

If you have a job that pays you to do what you would/will do in your free time anyway, you're all set... Not to mention if you can work for anywhere... I got paid to program from a Jazz fest. this weekend.. it was great I kicked back and wrote some PL/SQL and listened to some great live music and drank...and drank... and drank.. life is good.

Computer leisure time YES!!! (1)

AntiPasto (168263) | more than 14 years ago | (#943075)

I'm not sure about technology killing my leisure time, as I am quite happy with hobby photography, and playing guitar, and I managed to keep a moderation of those activities to offset technology frustrations.

HOWEVER! I would say that there is no doubt in my mind that choosing MIS as a career has killed 99% of my leisure computer time... I would love so much to learn more about Macromedia Flash, and Sonic Foundry's Vegas Pro... but when I try to use those tools for enhancing my other interests (music & photography), I just wind up checking stocks, servers, email, web pages, or troubleshooting the system itself's quirks (heh... m$)....

----

Re:Unplugging and consequences (1)

B-B (169492) | more than 14 years ago | (#943077)

One thing I know we do lose when we keep plugged in while on vacation/weekends is respect. Respect for our private space. No boss can respect staff that answers the call from vacation. They can like them, value them, etc, but respect is gone.

I unplug every weekend. I take all of my sick/vacation and personal days. I refuse to work more than an 8 (7 if you do not count lunch as work time) day.

I know I have the utter respect of my boss, as an individual. Simply because I unplug.

Tom

Re:Unplugging is essential. (1)

chorder (177607) | more than 14 years ago | (#943083)

Um, I don't know if this is oT or not, but I kinda like the hum. It's very soothing in a way. I'm in college and interning at an IT Consulting firm, I was raised on TV, Radio, Computer, and now Cell Phone, Laptop and Permanent Internet Connection. I don't think I could drop the hum if I tried. I have fond (but disturbing) memories of being a latchkey kid and coming home to an empty house, and having my fear and loneliness be quieted by the hum of our shitty Sony Trinitron, which I had to keep muted to keep up the pretense that I wasn't just a kid alone in a house. The hum is a security blanket for many in my generation.

And while I wont disagree with any of the points raised about technology increases the work hours, (at work and at home), I will say that teens with cell phones are an insanely well connected force to be reckoned with. Time that used to be spent waiting under the oppressive watch of your parents for someone, ANYone to call and take you out, that time is now spent at cafes chilling out with a cup of coffee with friends, maybe a laptop where your making a site to throw up picks for friends who are away at college. And when the busy classwork needs to get done, its the dead trees that get whipped out, spread like a mealstreom across the floor, and stained with coffee and the wasted hours of youth.

-chorder

Re:It's all relative... (1)

Alarmist (180744) | more than 14 years ago | (#943087)

Sure, maybe we are "stressed" these days, and feel tied to jobs from which we can't escape -- but think about how great it is that these technologies allow us to have careers where we don't have to shovel coal 22 hours a day.

Or hunter-gatherers, who have to work maybe four hours per day to ensure their survival.

Re:Unplugging and consequences (1)

Alarmist (180744) | more than 14 years ago | (#943088)

Interesting posts, thank..I wonder exactly what the consequences of unplugging are? Do people lose their jobs? fall behind? Miss lots of important advances?

Yes, to all of the above. Else why would technical people feel so enslaved to their work? Working on an exciting project is a lot of fun, but it isn't your life.

Granted, a significant portion of the technical community enjoys working on their work. But that portion is not enough to explain people like my roommate, who recently quit his job because he was spending too much time on the road and too much time at work. Working late every now and again is one thing; not being home for days at a time because you're stuck working on something in a building half a mile away is quite another matter.

There are consequences. People do fall behind, miss important things, and eventually get fired. But not every tech company is like that. The intelligent ones with good management realize that people are people, not machines and certainly not a limitless resource. When you burn out one person so completely that they cannot get out of bed in the morning, you can't always go to the local headhunting agency and get another in their place.

In some ways, this new "Information Revolution" that I hear about from time to time is not much different from the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. A valuable resource (technical knowledge) has been discovered and is being exploited. It will be a while (or maybe not much longer--one can never tell for certain) before things reach a state of equilibrium in which employees enjoy their work and employers don't run their people into the ground.

You have to decide before you start (1)

Mirk (184717) | more than 14 years ago | (#943092)

In the experience of most of my friends, what this article describes is all too true. BUT in the UK at least (which is where I am), it's still possible - if not particularly easy - to find employers who pay well while respecting the endearingly old-fashioned notion of Working Hours.

I know this because when I applied for my current job (just over a year ago) I made it very clear on my CV (or resume if you must) that I was prepared to work 9am-5pm five days a week and that's it. So that filtered out a lot of potential employers even before I got to the stage of being offered interviews: I'm sure plenty of companies looked at my CV and immediately thought, ``that's not the sort of person we want working for us''. But that's OK, because they're not the sort of companies I want to work for either.

The result is that I got a lot fewer offers than I would otherwise have had. I chose my job from a smaller pool. But I'm happy with the hours I'm working, I'm being paid enough (though surely less than I could get if I were prepared to compromise on hours), and my employer's getting what I promised (i.e. expectations were pre-emptively managed!)

Is it worth reducing your choice of employers this much? Depends how much the Rest Of Your Life is worth to you. I'm married with two young children, I'm involved in my church, I like to read, to brew beer, to write free software and lots of other stuff - so for me, the answer was an emphatic yes. For you, it might legitimately be more important to earn an extra 50% - for example, because you're still Young, Free And Single (this forum is full of geeks, right :-) and you want to be in a position to pay off your mortgage early.

I guess the only concrete lesson here is, the earlier in the whole job-search process you say what you really want, the less of your and other people's time you'll waste, looking at jobs whose corporate culture isn't a good match for what you want. There's no point putting on your CV that you're a dynamic, go-getting, motivated, mutual individual when the truth is that you want your evenings and weekends. In other words, Honesty Is The Best Policy. Hmmm. Is that news?

Oh, and the other thing is that for anyone who's not worked this out yet, mobile phones are the instrument of Satan. Just say no.

--

Compared to places with higher cell density (1)

KjetilK (186133) | more than 14 years ago | (#943093)

I wonder how this compares to statistics of countries that have an even higher density of wireless communication devices, e.g. Finnland, Sweden, Norway?

Re:This is typical... (1)

catkinson (187577) | more than 14 years ago | (#943096)

I was just thinking about this the other day when I had the desire to do other things besides slog away at my computer all day and night. I would love to have the gumption to give up this 'pipedream' ratrace. It doesn't seem right that we toil away all day (and night) for the profitability of others. I read some mention (above comment) about the necessity of a revolution of workers, but I know in my heart that it is an unlikely end, as people are inherently greedy and stupid. Everybody strives to be rich, famous, or remembered. It is simple human nature. Is it really too much to hope that one day Utopia can exist on earth?

And this is ... (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 14 years ago | (#943103)

One of the reasons that I like living in my native Australia as opposed to the USA. When I came out of university .. 4 weeks vacation straight of the bat.

It is not the technology that is causing your job stress .. it is the way you society is being run. The USA has had all sorts of issues about how your society doen't believe enjoying life, well before technology became an issue. Just ask anyone who *doesn't* live there.

Another indicator I saw recently was that the USA spends far more of its GDP on health care than Australia .. but guess which countries health system was rated better by the WHO???

Change in Technological Ideas (1)

Anonymous Karma (199687) | more than 14 years ago | (#943110)

The fact that time spent working has increased has resulted from the change in ideas of technological progress, namely, the exponential growth curve of technology. This type of growth does not sustain itself - indeed, for every whiz-bang technology gadget people must work harder, because it takes more time to forever increase the pace of technology. There's about twice as many gadgets on the market based on technology as there were a year ago - look at that stupid singing fish for an example.

Technology does breed advances in productivity - but those advances get fed right back into the technologial loop. Indeed, at this time advances in productivity are not enough at this time to sustain the required exponentail growth curve. W need productivity-enhancing technologies [thinkgeek.com] that enable us to increase our prodictivity to the point where we actually work smarter, not harder.

Some of those technologies are appearing today, here [thinkgeek.com] and here [be.com] , but it will take a while before they actually get implemented in the marketplace. In the meantime, expect people to work longer hours trying to sustain the exponential growth curve that is the foundation of our booming economy.

Getting better, Jon (1)

tssm0n0 (200200) | more than 14 years ago | (#943112)

I was suprised to see some facts and statistics in a Jon Katz article...

When reading this article I couldn't help but think about how these people chose these jobs. Any one of these "stressed out" individuals could find a less stressful workplace. It might mean a pay cut... it might mean moving to another part of the country, but if they're concerned enough about working long hours and being on call all the time then it might be worthwhile for them to look into those options.

The area I live in (DC area) is packed full of stressed out people... always on a business call on their cell phones, pagers going off, using a palm pilot or laptop in any spare time they have, and I've always felt that they do this to themselves. I've always managed to find a job that isn't stressful, and I've always managed to come up with vacation time, and I'm sure they could do the same.

Re:Change in Technological Ideas (1)

11223 (201561) | more than 14 years ago | (#943115)

Ding - Hit the nail right on the head. It's the More's Law phenomenon - it makes us work harder to sustain the exponential growth of the economy.

Not my boss. (1)

blameless (203912) | more than 14 years ago | (#943117)

employers aren't helping, actually encouraging employees to do personal chores on the Net -- from their desks

Since when?


Just a little bit of history repeating (1)

Far McKon (204090) | more than 14 years ago | (#943119)

Well, throughout history those who work hard to compete win. What everyone knows, but doesn't really know how to say is that there is no way to choose not to compete. Choosing not to compete is just another way of choosing to lose. So the choices become work hard and long and get ahead, or enjoy yorself and lose. At this point there is way to escape the rat race.

is technology killing free time? (1)

Morphine007 (207082) | more than 14 years ago | (#943125)

This goes back to the:

guns don't kill people, people kill people

argument. The simple solution is to unplug every once in awhile! Another follows the:

I drive truck, but this is my racecar

line of thinking. meaning; DO NOT bring your work home!! Home is for you, it is a place to relax and get away from the stresses of the job. I can confidently state from experience that if your habits at home and at work are the same, you are going to have a burnout. I live in the unfortunate situation where my work is where I live and I am forced to work at home as often as at work (Military college if any are wondering), and I regularly suffer from burnouts, to the order of 2 - 3 per year.

The simple truth is that being in an environment that is incredibly close to that of your work kills productivity and makes stress levels skyrocket.

Taking your work home with you (1)

The Rock1699 (207739) | more than 14 years ago | (#943126)

In the end, every company in the world is retail. As "duh" as that statement seems, its quite obvious while I sit here in my cubicle working for an ITS division of a major midwest supercenter chain.

Direct retail has always had different demands from standard industry, the attention to the hours away from 8-5 is crucial in our profit.

Yet, as obvious as that is, I still find it terrible that some of our team members have pagers that are taken home with them nightly. These pagers receive direct support calls from hundreds of stores with minor dink problems, but still wake us up at 2am to fix a broken cash register.

Quite often, people work 8-5, then go home and get paged 5 times during dinner, and 3-4 times during the night. When carrying a pager, you can't leave your house for the weekend. If you're farther than half an hour away from a terminal that you can fix the problem from, you are in violation of the policy.

The question is: Is it right for business to expect this much from their employees? These people are salaried workers who get paid an extra $30 for the entire week that they have this pager. This pager can often deliver 30-40 extra hours of work on its own, breaking spirits ruthlessly of employees who trade the pager faster than Democrats with a poorly rolled joint.

I, for one, wouldn't be caught dead with that pager, and will continue to code and create the problems for these people to fix. Nice to be on this end of the spectrum.

"what's that ticking sound?" "just your mortality" (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#943136)

I frequently disagree with Katz, but he's hit the nail on the head this time.

I work for a great company. Great people, good benefits, good compensation. However, not only do I have a company pager, but I haven't had even one 40 hour week in months. It's not a startup, but we still have to work like it is. I haven't been out of town since New Years. I got paged and tangled up in an hour's worth of work right after sundown on July 4th. You know, right when all the fun happens. I took a day off due to severe burnout at the beginning of May with the understanding that we would finish a project and I could take some more serious time off. Well, the project is done, but we're still "under the gun."

The thing that has started to really bother me about the technology industry is that there is all this brainpower that is essentially going to waste. At most jobs, you put in your time, and go home. There, you can read, write, listen to music, think, or otherwise generally better yourself. But after sane + n hours of work each day in the tech industry, I frequently find myself mentally exhausted. The really frustrating thing is that most web programming related problems are not interesting in any deep way. It's "How do we force the browser and the server to behave the way we want them to?" "Why doesn't this damn library work as advertised?" "What do you mean, that functionality is broken?" Spending all of one's time trying to find workarounds for things doesn't enrich one's inner life, but it takes enough thought that when one finally gets a break, concentrating can be difficult. Meanwhile, time marches on. Every 60 hours you give your employer is 60 hours of YOUR life. You can't get that back. Is it worth it? I guess so; I'm still here, but ever more ambivalent.

got kids.. (2)

martin (1336) | more than 14 years ago | (#943137)

heck I to work for the rest. Looking after kids s the hardest bit of my life. Yes its also the most enojoyable, but boy are they tiring.

Telecommuting...good point (2)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#943143)



I forgot telecommuting..but it's a good point. There, the boundaries between work andplay are even tougher, no? Would love to hear from some of you who do it..

I knew this was a smart post (2)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#943144)


I read this post and thought, "gee, this is interesting"...Robokatz..an idea whose time has come

Good post (2)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#943145)



Yes, it's not just a matter of employees demanding this. We all have new expectations about technology. College kids stay on ICQ for hours because they say they fear their friendw will think somethings wrong if they don't answer instantly. Companies may be exploiting this, but it's much bigger issue than that. It goes to our expectations for technology.

Not for you to decide... (2)

JonKatz (7654) | more than 14 years ago | (#943146)



I think you have only to read these posts to see that this is the right place for this article. There is much work and leisure time going on around /. it isn't only for people trawling at all. I think anything to do with technology is a good subject for /., as is obvious by the response to this piece. I always find it odd that people are so quick to self-censor the subject matter they read or talk about.

Indeed. (2)

RAruler (11862) | more than 14 years ago | (#943147)

More and more people feel its their duty to be the best worker, lest they should lose their job, and then who would be for their broadband? Its not uncommon to see people with a PDA working when ever the get the chance to, in some cases people enjoy the work and enjoy working on projects. Personally, i'd Telecommute and just live shabbily at my house.

---

Re:Unplugging is essential. (2)

griffjon (14945) | more than 14 years ago | (#943150)

Hell yeah.

My time from M-F 9am to 6pmish comes relatively cheap. time beyond that, expectations that I'll be around to work on the weekends, nope. unpriced. you can't buy that time off me. sorry. My job I enjoy, and it is part of my life. NOT my whole life. gotsta do salsa/merengue dancing, gotsta trek around the hillcountry, gotsta party.

Again, it's what you do with it (2)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 14 years ago | (#943152)

The essay makes some good points - we're allowing technology to make our lives more complicated and less relaxing. I know I myself do that way too often.

However, the point is, and always has been technology is going to have results depending on how we use it. So, we've chosen to use it to make life more stressful in many cases. Let's face it, we only have ourselves to blame if we do it to ourselves or let it happen to us.

It's not a "good" versus "bad" technology or the white-hate workers versus the black-hat evil Corporatists. Life's divisions aren't that simple.

Don't like it? Change it. Take that vacation time, put your foot down, don't overtax your employees, find that job that gives you a break, stop using the net to fill up every spare moment, etc.

Our worst problem is somehow the ideal that more "work" is somehow noble, admirable, a sign of superiority. So we let ourselves work harder and longer - but for what result? Doesn't seem worth it to me.

Re:Indeed. (2)

warpeightbot (19472) | more than 14 years ago | (#943153)

Or you can become a consultant at a really good consulting company and once again have the illusion of cheap healthcare, paid vacation, etc.... natch, your percentage of take is less, but that's one of those little tradeoffs. Much rather pay a professional for those kinds of hassles. No, I don't clear six figures, but when something goes awry, I just call someone, and it gets taken care of. Badda-boom, badda-bing.

--
w.e.b., salaried consultant
There are no dress rehearsals.
We ARE professionals, and this
IS the Big Time.

My answer (2)

Tiro (19535) | more than 14 years ago | (#943154)

Slashdot is killing my leisure time.

If CmdrTaco and Hemos would quit publishing such interesting stories, I could actually spend my summer vacation doing something worthwile, rather than reading, posting, and listening to BBC Radio One [bbc.co.uk] on the net all day.

But seriously, this trend is only going to get worse, and I'm not happy about it.

Change in nature of leisure, not elimination (2)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 14 years ago | (#943163)

I don't think that technology - or more precisely the way businesses expect us to work because of technology - has eliminated leisure. What it has done is profoundly changed the nature of it.

My parents had holiday and two-week vacations every year. I don't, and am amazed that they avoided going crazy under those conditions.

When I'm "on contract" I don't have holidays, evenings, or even many weekends. Even if I'm only working 40 hours "on the clock," I average at least 60 when you include everything I need to do to keep current in this field. But my vacations (every 2-3 years) generally last 2-3 months, with the time evenly split between travel and career "skills sharpening" activities.

My parents think I'm crazy, but a two-week break just isn't long enough for me to recover. At the same time it is so long that it causes major disruptions in the office. (Not because I don't know how to minimize these problems, but businesses have deemphasized these practices.)

The downsides to this approach? It requires much more financial planning to prepare for a three-month period of unemployment than a two-week vacation. Many people can't pull it off, often for reasons beyond their control. Also, if you don't take a long break and hit "burnout" it can take a *long* time to recover - 6-12 months "off contract." That's long enough that it can be harder to reenter the job market.

But the upside is that you can do things that our parents could only dream of. Want to hike the length of the Appl. Trail? No problem. Want to live in Paris all spring, practicing your French? Pack your bags!

But at least I'm not sewing dresses in a sweatshop (2)

Zulfiya (44302) | more than 14 years ago | (#943164)

Ah, the forty-hour week, a modern middle class myth. The people who believe that we used to have a lot of leisure time are the same people who think that the 50's style non-working housewife was the "normal" way to be.

A hundred years ago, if I lived on a farm, do you think I'd be sitting around with the time to read three books a week? Would I be able to take more than a day or two for "vacation"? Who would watch the kids? the livestock? Do you think I's never pull an all-nighter in the barn for a sick animal?

A hundred years ago, if I lived in the city and didn't have the fortune to be upper or upper middle class, do you think I'd have any leisure? Did the women and children working sixty-plus hours a week sewing in dimly-lit sweatshops with chained doors take vacations? Did they even take sick days?

Don't think the past was such a bed of roses. The freedom technology gives us is what lets us have the leisure to whine about how little leisure we have.

We do have more time, we just spend it! (2)

mjh (57755) | more than 14 years ago | (#943168)

I've been watching, from time to time, a series on PBS called "1900 House" [pbs.org] . It's about a family that has volunteered to move into a house that was rebuilt to be as close as possible to a house from 100 years ago. It has all of the same technology, including a stove that barely works but must remain on 7x24 because it's the main heat source for the house. I find this show interesting because it's unbelievable how much time is spent cooking and cleaning. Virtually all of the time is spent keeping things clean, while most of the rest of the time is spent cooking!

This show is enlightening because it demonstrates how much additional time we actually do have because of technology. And what the vast majority of us do with that extra time is (drumroll please)... watch TV!

Now, that being said, I don't disagree with the article. Employeers do seem to be demanding more and more of our leisure time. And I don't think some of the demands are justified. But, if you're good at what you do, you are golden. There's a technology labor shortage - a big one. As long as this exists, those who are technically capable can either:

  1. Set up reasonable boundaries without fear of reprisal, by refusing to dedicate all of your time to your employer.
  2. Become co-conspirators in the drainage of their time by never setting any boundary on what is or isn't reasonable.

That being said, let's all go out and demand that we only work 60 hour weeks so that we can have some time to catch up on the Simpsons!

Well, kinda... (2)

Cramer (69040) | more than 14 years ago | (#943170)

Yes, technology was supposed to unburden us working folk from our jobs. However, in the new hightech world, there have to be those that really do make the world go 'round. These people live for that kind of environment -- I was like that for several years, but it becomes a serious drain on one's life (read: life expectancy.)

Additionally, the problem is multiplied by people not leaving their work at work. The pager, cell phone, and/or laptop are generally accepted without question. People go home and continue to work on their employer's problems.

Welcome to the new "dot com" world...

Stress? (2)

dsplat (73054) | more than 14 years ago | (#943173)

Stress is having deadlines and not having the tools to meet them.

Yes, I have a laptop at work that goes home with me at night. Usually the only reason I fire it up at home is to sync my personal and work calendars and address books. I spend hours of my time at home online. Most of that is corresponding with friends all over the world who I have met online, friends I wouldn't have otherwise.

I do have too many activities competing for my time. Most of them have nothing to do with technology. When I play with my kids, I use Legos, not NICs. I love to read, and I lose sleep staying up to finish a good novel. And on a good day, my wife and I are both awake enough after the kids go to bed that we can talk for a while.

Technology is not morally neutral, but we can choose whether it is a tool for us to get on with our lives, or a tool for other people to intrude on them. I choose the former.

Re:Lies, Damned lies.... (2)

Mark F. Komarinski (97174) | more than 14 years ago | (#943179)

Nope, the quote says "somewhat" to "extremely". That would mean what is left is "low to no", which is pretty much the same thing said of the over 65 crowd.

The reason we suffer so is simple (2)

doublem (118724) | more than 14 years ago | (#943182)

In the days of the Romans, they used "Bread and Circuses" to keep the population stated. Today, bread is not a problem. There is more than enough food for all on Earth, and those who need to be controlled are given the bread. Those who do not are left to starve or are simply shot.

Gladiatorial matches have been replaced with WWF and sitcoms, but technology has offered new challenges to those who rule our lives.

The wealthy and powerful realized long ago that allowing technology to develop and reach the masses would allow them to do the same work in less time, so they filled our minds with visions of a "Jetsons" future with flying cars and 3 day work weeks.

In reality, they were pushing us harder. The changes were small and hard to notice.

The principle was simple. If you put frog in boiling water, it leaps out, but if you put it in cool water and slowly turn up the heat, it remains until cooked.

This is how they have kept us under control. Instead of allowing us to finish our work in less time and thus have the leisure to improve our minds and challenge their power, they have increased our work and demanded that everyone accomplish more.

Work using technology IS more efficient. We accomplish 40% more than our parents did in the same time, but we are asked to do 60% more than they did and are thus destroyed and controlled.

Here endeth the lesson.


Matthew Miller, [50megs.com]

Yes and no. (2)

boojum_uc (122395) | more than 14 years ago | (#943184)

Yes, I am available for work more of the time. However, I have a lot more flexibility in my time as a result. I'd rather work more and have more responsibility for managing myself. That's stressful, but it's much less stressful than having to punch the clock for no other reason than some suit tells me to do so.

I think when I work too hard it's not a result of technology as much as it is a result of the combination skills shortage and downsizing trend-- I often find that there just plain old aren't enough resources to do the necessary work.

Of course, perhaps I complain less because I work in Europe-- "short vacations" are relative when you start with 26 paid days vacation. :)

Preaching to the choir (2)

Spiff28 (147865) | more than 14 years ago | (#943187)

Hi Jon, I don't normally bash you, hell, I don't normally read what you write. But uhh... duh?

I think just about everyone here is all too aware of the extremely short leash technology allows. Geeks, more than anyone else, are inclined to cut off all communication when they go on vacation because... hell, even sitting at home with no faxes, cell-phones, e-mail is a vacation!

I'd have been much more fascinated if you'd covered two points.

  • Is it worth it? Sure we may moan and bitch about how bad being on constant call, even at 3am, is. Now, how does this compare to.. construction? Or.. cashier at burger king? We're getting much more compensation in terms of cash, but we're also paying them back with obscene amounts of time. I'll bet you construction workers aren't exactly on the same instant-demand schedule some of us need to be. I have honestly entertained the idea of saying 'fuck it' and doing a job that would pay just enough for getting by each month, but would allow me spare time to do what I wanted. Some of us in the tech industry may have attained the utopian "do what you like and get payed for it" so they don't really feel like they need that spare time to do their fun stuff; they're already doing it.
  • What can be done? We know it's bad. What have people done to try and make it better? I'd really like to know. I'm not far in here, what mistakes am I going to want to avoid? It's clearly a (dead horse) issue that needs fixing, but so far it seems as though there's been lots in the "Wow this is bad" and little in the "Wow this is how we made it better" department.

Now I know, by the time I post this, moderators will have moved on. I just hope I'm not the only here who thought that while yes, valid point jon, the /. crowd already knew that.

Re:Indeed. (2)

chaobell (167146) | more than 14 years ago | (#943190)

There is also that looming specter of "downsizing," to which I have just fallen prey...no matter how good you are at your job, there's always that little teeny chance that you won't have it next week. I'm jobless as of Friday because our salespeople aren't doing their job (selling web work); instead of doing the logical thing and firing the salespeople, they're canning me (I'm not bitter, really, and that urge to burst out of the web room screaming "J00 SUX0RZ!!!" at the top of my lungs is getting easier to suppress). What sucks is, I like this job, and I like this company...although I would sell a kidney to be able to telecommute.

Then again, the bright side is that I'll at least get a little vacation for the first time in two years. :}

Re:This is typical... (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 14 years ago | (#943195)

Oh Puhleeze.

Katz might feel like an important writer when he paints this picture of The Worker once again being crushed by the boot of Corporate Greed, but the truth is very different.

Tech nerds get huge money for stupid monkey work, and we get even more money for anything that requires us to think. We take that money and drop a good chunk of it into Roth IRA's and 401K's and guess what? We are part of the machine.

We are the Pinball Wizards and we are needed by the corporate world far more than they are needed by us. If you want more free time, quit your job and take one with less hours. There are far more jobs than there are qualified UNIX gurus, even more than enough jobs to go around for all those faceless MCSE's, so we are in the drivers seat at every interview we sit down at.

What Katz fails to realize is that we "drones" are far more free to choose our lifestyle than (for example,) a web journalist.

Re:Indeed. (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 14 years ago | (#943196)

Fear not. Unless you are completely useless you will be working again in no time. I've been through a layoff before myself.

The best plan of action is to take that fat severence check and enjoy the sunlight for a while, let the headhunters and other minions of satan try to find a job for you, and start looking yourself if you don't like the options they come up with.

Or you can become a consultant, which ain't a bad life, in spite of the higher health insurance costs.

Behind the Times? (2)

Alarmist (180744) | more than 14 years ago | (#943198)

Goodness, Jon, no one has ever suggested that our emphasis on technological trinkets robs of leisure time! How insightful of you!

I've covered this before, but here it is again:

The United States of America has a strong streak of consumerism at the core of its cultural values. We think that we must buy the latest doodads to keep up with the Joneses. This impulse contributes to our self-esteem and the granting of esteem by our peers.

Look at some of the sociological studies done with regards to clothing and other items with large, obvious logos. Most of them are bought by lower class and lower middle class people to show that they have the money to spend on these things. Those in what is traditionally regarded as the upper class, if they have been raised in that lifestyle, do not buy such things because they and their peers can recognize "quality" when they see it and don't need logos. You can see the same thing in many rural areas--I cannot count the number of times I've passed a trailer home or a little shanty with a satellite dish or an outrageously customized automobile outside.

We are taught that we must buy everything we can. Combine this with a government that takes between twenty and forty percent of the average person's yearly wages (or more), and add in the fact that a quality education (which most parents want for their children) is increasingly expensive and hard to find, and you have the formula that makes both parents work overtime in salary jobs because they can't afford not to.

The American Dream used to be the chance of success. Now the American Dream is two mortgages, heavy credit card bills and functionally illiterate children who refuse to have anything to do with their hapless parents.

What does technology have to do with all of this?

In most cases, technological items are simply more gizmos to be hawked to the unwary. When was the last time you really needed to spend over a thousand dollars on a stereo system? The items we buy are being packaged with more and more "features," each more incomprehensible than the last, in an effort to pander to the lowest common denominator. "Look, honey! It's got 89 settings, it must be better than this one with 32!"

Since companies can charge more for these gizmos, we have to work harder to buy them. We have to buy them to maintain our self-esteem (without which you're in bad shape and, in extreme cases, driven to cull yourself from the gene pool).

Ergo, the corporate and government interests that run significant portions of our society have condemned millions of people to a lifetime of wage slavery. The sad thing is that these people don't always fully realize what is happening until it's too late.

Fight the Power.

Hmmm... Stress = Status? (2)

anodos (183874) | more than 14 years ago | (#943199)

You see a guy with his pager, his cell phone, his PDA, his laptop, and now with his groovy net enabled car. Why does he do it? Status. IF you're busy as hell, stressed out, pissed off most of the time, and people see you as such, they will prolly say "hey, he's REALLY busy, I guess he's an important person." Hey gotta go, my cell phones ringing, my pagers going off, and I have 50 people on ICQ I have to talk to. =)

Re:Lies, Damned lies.... (2)

catkinson (187577) | more than 14 years ago | (#943200)

70 percent of respondents were in the 'somewhat' to 'extremely' stressed bracket. It makes no mention of the other brackets but I can make a guess that there were some others in between 'no stress'. I can also guess that very few people aged 35 and younger responded that they have no stress in their lives.

Re:Who's forcing us? (2)

exploder (196936) | more than 14 years ago | (#943202)

That's true, if you happen to have the skills to jump ship at any time. Most don't. You and I are lucky enough to be largely exempted from the situation I described. Most aren't. The economy is more than tech workers (thank god). Be thankful for what you have and realize that most don't have it. Remember it's not just tech workers who are tied to their jobs with these little technological marvels like pagers and cell phones.

Re:This is typical... (2)

exploder (196936) | more than 14 years ago | (#943203)

I did quit my job and get one with fewer hours. It's less money too, but I can't tell you what a difference it's made for me in terms of my quality of life. Not everyone has the luxuries that you have attributed to the tech caste though. As tech people, we do enjoy a very privileged spot in the economic system that currently is in place. Don't think that very many others in the workforce share our good fortune. Katz wasn't (only) talking about tech people in his article. It's people in all areas who are now tied even more tightly to their jobs by their cell phones, pagers, and PDAs. And most of them don't possess job skills that enable them to jump ship at will. Katz's point remains: what benefits have individuals gained from the "digital revolution", in terms of leisure time and quality of life?

A story from the trenches (2)

Elkman (198705) | more than 14 years ago | (#943205)

This sounds like a pretty accurate description of the company where I used to work. As an example, I remember when I was planning to buy a house, and I wanted to take a day off to go look around with my real estate agent. My boss told me that I couldn't take the day off because I had a critical problem to look at, and he said that taking any time off would jeopardize the future of the company. (I was investigating a problem with an unreleased product that was going to a prospective customer.) And that was a request for ONE DAY OFF. In the end, we lost the customer anyway, but that was mainly due to our inept sales force.

It wasn't much of a surprise when, several months later, I got a call at 1:30 AM reporting that a different customer was having problems with our product (now released). I dialed into their system and looked around for an hour and a half before finally figuring out that it was a network problem. During these incidents, and many more I don't have room to mention, I was told that I needed to put in a lot of extra effort because it would insure the success of the company. (Or, as my boss put it late one afternoon, "The whole company's falling apart and no one's here.")

The complete surprise came later, when the company (still doing poorly) decided to lay off almost all of its developers and to hire a new staff in another state. The new manager of the development group wrote a document castigating the current developers and managers. His proposal document said, "Our development has been done in an academic manner. We don't have any seasoned commercially qualified developers."

My point: Companies can always ask for a lot from their employees, but they have the power to turn around and kick you in the pants afterward. I hope this was an unusual case, but it could be more common than I think. Life's too short to be a workaholic and to stay chained to a desk, a cell phone, or an E-mail address 24 hours a day. I've changed jobs and I'm feeling much better now.

Who's forcing us? (3)

Jerky McNaughty (1391) | more than 14 years ago | (#943208)

It's not built for the benefit of individuals any longer, but for the benefit of corporations.

But who's forcing us to work these jobs? That's right, no body. We choose to. If we decide that the stress or hours are too much, then we should quit. It's all your choice. The corporations don't force us to work these hours. I'm tired of people bitching about their jobs, then doing nothing to better it. I hated my previous job but rather than complain about the hours, I found a new one.

One of the biggest problems I see with the tech industry is that way too many employees don't know how to interview their employer to see if it's a place they want to work. I see this most with just-out-of-school grads (of which I was one not long ago). It's hard to know what questions to ask to see if your potential co-workers are any good at what they do, to see if the project will be interesting for you, etc.

But I digress... If you don't like your job or the way the corporation is treating you, no one makes you stay there. Anyone worth anything in the tech industry could have a new job in a second.

Are you kidding me? (3)

BilldaCat (19181) | more than 14 years ago | (#943212)

I would say a LARGE portion of tech workers surf the web for 2+ hours a day. I know I do. Usually, I'm keeping current on news/tech/stuff, but it doesn't really feel like work. I consider that part of my leisure time. Most of my free time in the evenings though lately has been going towards working on freelance projects, and startup-websites (yes, even one on C#, -1 karma pls tks). :)

And I refuse to take my pager/etc when I go on vacation. I don't own a cell, and don't plan on owning one. My vacation time is MINE, and I'm not going to let work interrupt it.

Information age... (3)

drenehtsral (29789) | more than 14 years ago | (#943213)

Technology was supposed to free us from the particular set of shackles that were the affliction of the industrial age. Now that we are moving towards the post-industrial information economy and all that shit, we have a new set of shackles. People are really good at that, making up new ways to be stressed out. I think we'd get bored otherwise...

I get paid to goof off. (3)

hey! (33014) | more than 14 years ago | (#943214)

Sort of.

The thing is, I'm a hacker. It's creative.

Nobody expects a painter or a musician to punch a clock, or measure the value of his or her output by volume. When the inspiration hits, you work. When you are stuck, you read slashdot, or do the countless other kinds of woolgathering activities that allow your subconscious to reorganize so you can attack the problem fresh. Pleasure vs. work is not the relevant dichotomy -- other kinds of balances have to be struck: social vs. isolated; family vs. clients, physical vs. intellectual.

I'm fortunate, because my boss is pretty well resigned to getting results in irregularly spaced but prodigious bursts. Being a programmer, I'm in an elite class of workers and one that where I work is understood to be creative. Not everyone can do what I do, nor can everyone who can do it as well as I do. But there are lots of folks out there that are exploited. Worse than exploited -- wasted is more like it. The problem is that as information becomes a bigger part of the economy, the problem of measuring a person's contribution becomes bigger. Stupid bosses go for time as the metric. It's about the worst metric there is because all you have to do is to occupy a defined space for a defined period of time to "accomplish" something. In fact I think most folks who push paper could cut their work week down to 25-30 hours and actually get more and better work done. Even hackers should get lots more vacation, IMHO, but spread out through the year.

But... you still have to pull all nighters, not just for deadlines. For truly creative work, there's no substitute for being able to hack until dawn because you've got the bit in your teeth.

Vacations are for getting *away*, dammit (3)

CrayDrygu (56003) | more than 14 years ago | (#943215)

I'm going to Denver at the end of the month, and my pager is staying at home. In fact, even if Denver was in the service area, it would be staying at home.

I do wish I had a laptop to take with me, for entertainment on the plane and so I could keep hacking on a script I'm writing, but I'm doing that for fun anyway. I won't be checking my work email, I won't be telling them where I am (besides "Denver") or how to reach me (even I don't know that), because I'd rather relax and have fun. No way I'm gonna have any connection to the office for that week.

It's sad that other people don't know how to do the same thing. People have always been "overworked and underpaid," but when you throw in the amount of stress that a lot of people have these days (whether it's their own fault or not), people really need to learn how to take a vacation. It's like the stress is such a part of them that they can't just lay back in the sun for a while and soak up some cancer-causing rays without a death grip on their cell phone, just in case the office needs them.

You need your vacation time more than the office does. Remember that. If you're gonna stay tied to work, what's the point in leaving in the first place?

--

ok (3)

vinay (67011) | more than 14 years ago | (#943217)

I really can't think of an employer who WANTS their employees to look at porn. I mean, really. Yes, I'm sure our employers want us to be at work longer, but what's the point of being at work longer if you're not getting anything done?

Students use instant messaging a lot! God, no! it's some faculty conspiracy?? No! How many times have I messaged my prof's? umm.. let's try zero. I message friends essentially exclusively. I'm not working, when I'm messaging (unless I'm ICQing as I'm coding.. which is possible..). The point is, ICQ detracts from work, it doesn't add to it.

Yes, I'll warrant that we're working longer hours, and we're more available, but I doubt that's part of some evil corporate conspiracy. Yes, I'll warrant that layoff's are up (though I'm not sure of that one.. any stats on that??), but it's not some The Man using technology against us as Jon would apparently have us believe.

also, people 18-35 being more stressed? Aren't these people in the prime of their life? Aren't they trying to find jobs and make some sense of their lives? I bet that this age group has always (well.. for quite some time.. ) been pretty stressed.

gaaaaaaaa

-V

Shackles?!? (3)

bguilliams (68934) | more than 14 years ago | (#943218)

I've been in this industry for almost exactly two years. I had no background in it and have been relying entirely on aptitude to compete with the guys who were coding at birth. I'm now making three times the money I was making when I was busting my ass bartending, welding, or pretending to be a musician.

From my point of view, these technological shackles, have totally changed my life for the better. I have a house, a car that doesn't suck, a lawn that always needs watering, and a family. I have infinite free time compared to the past. If I choose to spend that free time connected to the electronic heroin at Battle.Net, you can hardly blame the laptop.

People may be dragging their cell-phones everywhere they go, but it's because they like looking important. How can we complain about people bringing palm-pilots on vacation? We can finally afford those vacations!

I guess I just don't see the downside...

Yet Another Diatribe from Katz the Red (3)

n9fzx (128488) | more than 14 years ago | (#943220)

That depends on your definition of Work. You think that sitting around reading Slashdot is WORK? Try moonlighting as a railroad employee (brakeman or track worker) and see what real work is all about.

What Katz sees as evidence of Corporatism is nothing more than employee greed. In the get-rich-quick IPO mania of the 90s, people have been willing to sacrifice their lives for a shot at retiring early. Nobody forced you to go to that pre-IPO startup with gobs of options, and you knew full well that it was a craps shoot. Sometimes the gamble pays off, and you'll be able to spend the rest of your life with your family and hobbies.

But if you truly enjoy what you're doing, do you really care? Many of us were out to change the world and make it a better place, and no revolution was ever done 9 to 5.

leasure time? (3)

ThE_DoOmSmItH (202602) | more than 14 years ago | (#943223)

i don't notice any lack of leasure time, i still go out, and doing other things, but i also spend my fair share of time playing computer games & chatting on irc. However, for some people who are too stupid to know better, it wouldn't supprise me. The main problem with this is people who don't know how to regulate their use of time with technology, and try to be 'cool' by having their cell phone on in a movie theatre, and getting people to call them. Personally, i find this annoying more than anything. Yes, i have a laptop, and a cell phone, but i don't go around getting people to call me all the time... People need to wise up about this crap, and learn to use it more effectively. -TubaMan

Separating work and leisure was an abberration (4)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#943225)

Separating work and leisure into different activities was only true as a result of the Industrial Revolution.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, if you were a farmer, you worked your farm, no matter how long it took. Ideally you gained satisfaction from what you were doing, seeing how your crops and animals grew, and you didn't mind the extra work.

If you were an artisian, you worked at home doing your crafts, for as long as it took. You were doing something that interested you, and you worked extra hours and didn't complain about it.

Once the Industrial Revolution came, you couldn't take your assembly line home with you. You worked your boring, mind numbing job, then went home.

Today, if you're lucky, you get a job that interests you, and you may even work at it at night. UNIX and computers fascinate me, I would play with them at night even if I didn't have a job that dealt with them. The fact that my job deals with UNIX and computers is only a bonus.

To say that you should be free of your job at 40 hours a week misses the point, after 40 hours a week I'm free of the tedious paperwork, but I still play with technology.

George

It's all relative... (4)

_vapor (55645) | more than 14 years ago | (#943226)

Sure, maybe we are "stressed" these days, and feel tied to jobs from which we can't escape -- but think about how great it is that these technologies allow us to have careers where we don't have to shovel coal 22 hours a day. I moan about my job sometimes, but if I had to work in the meat-packing industry in turn of the century Chicago, I would kill to be tied down to a tech job.

Unintentional irony? (4)

streetlawyer (169828) | more than 14 years ago | (#943231)

Almost all of us -- especially the people reading this -- have less leisure time than ever.

STOP READING THIS AND DO SOME F'KNG WORK, DAMN YOU!

News Flash! (4)

Golias (176380) | more than 14 years ago | (#943232)

News Flash! Young Workers Under More Stress Than Retired People, Children

... American Demographics, found that adults aged 35 and younger were the most stressed people in the population.

And just exactly who do you think should be more stressed than 18-35 year old workers?

The way this story should have read is, "a report from American Demographics show that work-related stress drops dramatically as you get older. The good news to those under 35 is that there is light at the end of the tunnel."

Unplugging is essential. (5)

AugstWest (79042) | more than 14 years ago | (#943234)

Everything in moderation, eh? I'm working for a startup, and it has been made abundantly clear that days off, holidays and vacation time means no contact. None.

I've brought a laptop on one vacation so far, and it was just to have something to dump the digital camera into. I allow myself *no* net access on the road.

Who knows how long this tech bonanza is going to continue... It may be 5 years, it may be ten, or it may pay at these ludicrous rates for the rest of our lives, although that's doubtful.

The point is that if you're going to be in this field for a long time, don't burn yourself out. It's bad enough that there are so few people with genuine experience already... If you have people killing themselves 24/7 on tech, in 4 or 5 years they're going to need to do something completely different just to remain sane.

Unplug once in a while. Take a month off from IRC and watch your RL relationships get back to a normal level. Turn off the machines at home and listen to the lack of hum... I'm willing to bet you'll actually physically notice your heart rate slowing. I know mine does.

Your heart has a specific number of beats it's going to complete before you kack. Try to savor a few of them :]

Lies, Damned lies.... (5)

Mark F. Komarinski (97174) | more than 14 years ago | (#943235)

But there's a huge trade off for this convenience. Inforum's l999 Survey from the MEDSTAT group, reports American Demographics, found that adults aged 35 and younger were the most stressed people in the population. Nearly seven in 10 said they were "somewhat" to "extremely" stressed, an astonishing contrast to adults over 65: 31 percent of them said they had almost no stress in their lives at all.

Huh? 7 in 10 is 70 percent. That would imply that 30 percent had no stress. That's pretty darn similar to the 31 percent of those over 65 who had no stress. What's the point?

This is typical... (5)

exploder (196936) | more than 14 years ago | (#943237)

...of the way society has been moving for a long time. It's not built for the benefit of individuals any longer, but for the benefit of corporations. Think about (in the US) the processes of government and economic participation, and ask yourself where the balance of power lies between individuals and corporations. Is it any surprise then that the benefits from technological advance have gone almost exclusively to the corporations rather than the individual workers themselves? I predict that unless and until some kind of revolution takes place, workers will continue to see thier leisure time eroded and their freedom dimished. Until that time, it will not get any better in terms of true quality and meaning of life.
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