A Leap In Understanding

     There are “24 / 7” jobs. Mostly, the requirement that the worker be available at all times is stated before he takes such a job, so that afterward he can’t claim that he didn’t know what sort of position he’d accepted. But most jobs are not of that sort. Time was, employers and managers of “non-24 / 7” businesses accepted that after working hours, their employees were free of any obligation to them.

     Time was. Today, to work in the “white collar” world here in the Land of the Formerly Free, you must have a cell phone – a smart cell phone – and it had better be:

  1. With you;
  2. Adequately charged;
  3. And turned on

     …all the BLEEP!ing time. That cell phone is your electronic tether to those who employ you. Remove it, let it discharge, or turn it off at peril of your salary.

     Paul Serran at Gateway Pundit has this to say about it:

     In our days, with cutthroat competition in the work environment and widespread mobile communications, it seems like there’s never any ‘off’ time.
     Unless you are obsessed with your work, professional calls outside work hours can be a very annoying experience.

     Yes, I’ve been there. It’s annoying at best, and frequently far worse. Apparently, the phenomenon is not confined to American white-collar workers:

     Australia will introduce laws giving workers the right to ignore unreasonable calls and messages from their bosses outside of work hours without penalty, with potential fines for employers that breach the rule.
     The ‘right to disconnect’ is part of a raft of changes to industrial relations laws proposed by the federal government under a parliamentary bill, which it says would protect workers’ rights and help restore work-life balance.
     Similar laws giving employees a right to switch off their devices are already in place in France, Spain and other countries in the European Union.

     Americans in office work are lagging behind their First World confreres in acquiring such protections. Whether the laws in the EU nations, and the ones proposed in Australia, provide adequate protection to the employee I do not know. But even a gesture toward the resurrection of the concept of ‘on’ hours and ‘off’ hours is worth applauding.

     But the prevalence of the practice of managers treating their subordinates as legitimately available at all hours isn’t necessarily because of “cutthroat competition.” For some, it’s just an inability to recognize boundaries, or that one’s priorities are not those of others. A supervisor with a skewed “work-life balance” will find it easy to infect his workers with his malady unless prevented from ‘above.’ Worse, he may be completely unaware of the damage he does that way – and not damage to his subordinates only. It’s a subject that deserves attention, even intensive study, by middle and top managers. Back when we were more aware of Epictetus, cause and effect, and the hegemony of equilibrium, we called it the Law of Diminishing Returns.

     Food for thought.


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    • Jay on February 9, 2024 at 8:10 AM

    Insisting that one be available 24/7 for business comes not only from upper management, but also from customers. Long ago, I got calls at home from clients (who somehow got my home number) angry I wasn’t working nights and weekends to get their project done ahead of schedule. Since then, I’ve learned to simply say ‘no’ to clients who ask for my cell number.

    1. Oh my, yes. I too have suffered customers of that sort — and who, before declining their “requests,” feels no slight pinch of anxiety over the possible consequences? Way back when, I was developer-manager of a product line that had customers worldwide…and very few of those customers seemed to understand the exotic, baffling concept of time zones. I attribute a great part of my curmudgeonry to the loss of sleep I suffered in those years.

    • OneGuy on February 9, 2024 at 10:21 AM

    Australia will allow employees to not answer their phones with no penalty.  Does that mean if the employer loses money because the employee wasn’t available that Australia will reimburse the employer, i.e. “no penalty”?


    1. Let’s hope not!

  1. One of my greatest joys of retiring from the Army was the ability to put my phone down, leave it alone, and walk away for hours. If I missed a call, I’ll call back at my convenience. No 4AM calls from subordinates or commanders. I can ignore my phone. And I often do.

    1. Among the hardest things I’ve ever had to master is the extraordinary discipline required to ignore a ringing phone. Now that I no longer matter to anyone other than my wife, I revel in it!

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