|I've been working with information technology systems for over 30 years now intermixed with Telecommunications work while in the U.S. Marines. I took my first C course in college back in 1984 and have been working with Visual Basic since 3.0. Started doing more serious work with C, Visual Basic, Delphi and MS Office programming in Mar 95. Started my personal Web site in May 1996 and this site in Nov 97. I'm working full-time during the day, lately in various technical and project management positions but I am always looking for telecommute, evening, night or weekend projects. On-site I can work in VA, DC or MD. Check out my Resume.|
|Is the Computer Industry behind the times?||My comments on how the Computer Industry is lagging behind the 24x7 trend the rest of society seems to be following.|
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©1996-2004 DWN Consulting, LLC
It's always puzzled me that with the world going 24x7 the very industry that is best suited for that environment seems to be resisting it the most. With supermarkets, gas stations, retail stores, restaurants, just to mention a few, now open 24 hours a day it seems the only thing that hasn't followed suit is our work ethic, in particular the computer industry. As a matter of fact with the move towards lights out operation of data centers one of the few places that were 24x7 they seem be heading in just the opposite direction. We complain about the cost of office space, traffic congestion and no parking but leave our buildings, highways and parking garages empty for the better part of each the approximately 240 work days and with few exceptions all day each weekend and during Holidays.
It's time we divorced ourselves from the Agricultural Past where people worked only while the sun was up and lived a limited night life based on candles and kerosene lamps. Gone are the days when children needed the entire Summer off to help PA harvest the crops. Thomas Edison created the light bulb in part out of the belief that mankind was lazy and unproductive wasting so much time during the night sleeping and cavorting. I'm not advocating working and already overworked group of people into the wee hours of the morning. Instead a chance to best utilize the facilities and resources we have. Filling these slots with those whose Circadian rhythms are better suited to an nocturnal work ethic. The additional positions could be funded by corporations have one fully utilized building rather that 2 or 3 day time use only facilities full of people coming to work already tired from their 1-2 hour fight with daily traffic congestion and parking lot circling.
Computer technology allows us the chance to alleviate some of the problems mentioned above by going to a three shift environment for more than customer support, law enforcement and the few other services offered around the clock. Added to that is the unique chance to avoid leaving the home altogether and working to create the 'Electronic Cottage' foreseen by Alvin Toffel the author of Future Shock and the Third Wave.
While some people would boo hoo the lack of socialization this would entail you only need to look at the proliferation of web cams in homes, offices and public places to see that people will adapt and create methods to socialize. Indeed one could argue that now instead of Billy Bob hanging around drinking beers with his buddies, or Ernest at the library, Julio on the street corner (please no comments from the 'Political Correctness' police. The previous examples are merely to make a point in a manner I felt everyone would understand) they would now have a much wider and varied range of acquaintances. One has only to look to the Internet to see this. With video conferencing, video/audio email becoming more affordable and reliable this can only help to break down the world's barriers even further. Besides who feels like going out after getting up 2 hours early to get to work on time, working 8-10 hours and then fighting another 2 hours to get home.
One of the savings in the three shift work ethic would be a reduction in management. Following the template seen in factory work the corporate management hierarchy could continue their 9-5 grind with shift supervisors watching over the swing and evening shifts. This would require giving the lower level managers more autonomy but the resultant rise in job satisfaction and I'm sure the accompanying rise in productivity would be well worth it. With the larger or perhaps expanded would be a better word infrastructure it would be cost efficient to move the HR, payroll and other support functions to shift work also. You would have departments more spread out time wise but more in contact with the people they are suppose to support.
I know many people will complain about the negative impact this would have on their social life. But lets face it that a lot of baloney. We tend to socialize with our immediate coworkers (now our fellow shift workers) and when we go out to meet new folks at bar, clubs, gyms, etc... we would be meeting those who have the same hours off. With the billions or people in the world that we wont meet reducing our share to 1/3 of the current total and socializing within out shift would not have a great impact on the vast majority of us. Many people have such a limited social scope that the impact would more than likely not even be noticed.
Another possibility that is getting short shrift but appears to be on the increase, albeit slowly is remote work (telecommuting). I know some people will advocate the use of public transportation but first this only addresses the traffic problem. Secondly, given the unpredictable nature of most jobs the flexibility just isn't there. Also from my own experience in the Washington, DC area the trains / Metro are overloaded, breakdown frequently and I don't know about you but standing in a crowded Metro car for 30 minutes is not a what I call an alternative to fighting traffic. The stress is just as high not to mention the increased opportunities for transmission of desease due to forced close proximity and poor ventilation.
I've worked on a couple of telecommute projects and how it's handled depends in some part on the comfort level of the managers. This can be muted somewhat if the consulting firm and client have worked on traditional projects and have developed a healthy relationship.
While a 'regular' day time project might have a deadline for program xxxxxxxx to be created/enhanced, tested, JCL/Procs changed the telecommute specs will require each of these steps to be documented and submitted for perusal by the appropriate manager. This distinction tends to evaporate with most managers as the telecommuter demonstrates that his quality is not be sacrificed. In fact, several studies have shown that telecommuters are more productive and have fewer missed days.
Obviously one of the tasks the contracting firm faces is avoiding being bogged down by having the projects milestones being turned into inch-pebbles. Then the telecommuter's main task becomes one of reporting and the bulk of his time is consumed by administrative functions. This has the unfortunate affect of causing the missed deadlines that the managers originally feared to materialize creating a self fulfilling prophecy.
I've found higher managers have less of a problem with this since by the very nature of their jobs they deal with employees with which they have little personal contact. It's the lower level managers such as team leads that have to be sold on the idea. This is an important point since selling higher management and having it forced down their throats might get the project approved it also will most certainly guarantee failure in the long run.
I don't foresee either of these totally replacing our traditional work ethic. At least not for some time to come. They hopefully will and certainly should be used in conjunction with our current work style.