Re: ADMIN: New Poll Question

Subject: Re: ADMIN: New Poll Question
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 2004 09:56:24 -0800

Quoting bryan johnson <bryan -dot- johnson -at- motoman -dot- com>:

> Oh well, I am actually curious to hear more of your opinions on
> this topic. I am fairly isolated as a writer and due to my long
> service to this company, hold a fair amount of autonomy. I realize
> my relationship with my employer is probably not typical.

Mostly, the issue doesn't come up for me, because I'm typically a contractor.
When I'm working in an office, I'm typically on flex time. It's understood that
I'll put in a certain amount of time per week, but so long as I'm available
during core hours, how I put in that time is up to me. So, if I spend five
minutes reading or writing on-line, I go home five minutes later.

Nor have I hired a sub-contractor in the last couple of years, so the issue
doesn't come up for me from that perspective.

However, for what it's worth, here's my take on the matter:

On the one hand, if people are working long hours, then management needs to make
some allowance for them to take care of personal business and sometimes relax.
They're going to take some personal breaks anyway, so management needs to live
with the fact. The difficulty for management is making sure that it doesn't get
out of hand. Spying on employees isn't the answer, whether it's personal or
electronic, because that breeds distrust - if only in the manager doing the
spying. I suppose the only real solution is to try to hire conscientious people,
and to focus on results rather than on time.

On the other hand, employees need to be honest about what they are doing. Some
employees maintain their right to read professional mailing lists on-line, but
they haven't cleared it with their supervisors. This behavior probably falls
short of dishonesty, but it seems headed in that direction, which makes me
uncomfortable. And it definitely isn't good communication. It's like taking time
off to go to the dentist without mentioning that you're out of the office - what
you're doing is legitimate, but how you're doing it is faulty.

Reading the replies, both on the list and in private, it's starting to come
clear that this is an issue in which the modern office is in transition. About
half the people who replied have permission to read during work hours, and about
half don't; possibly, those who do have permission are slightly in the majority.
This seems a big change from when the Internet first became popular, when the
majority of businesses would find reading on-line on company time unacceptable.
Probably, in a few years, that it will become completely acceptable.

However, as at least one reply points out, the situation is complex. It depends
on the company culture, and how employees put in time. For nine-to-fivers, it
will probably never be acceptable; for those who work flexible hours, it is
acceptable when kept within limits. It seems to me that means that both
supervisors and employees have to be flexible on the issue, considering it in
context before deciding what is right.

Bruce Byfield



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