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Excerpts, Technology

Americans Cut Some Slack

Well, so we know that Americans put in a lot more time at work than our counterparts in Europe. We get fewer benefits, but higher salaries. Of course, we tend to commute by car, and live in very hot or very cold places, so we spend a lot more cash on energy, or we would, if our government were not structured to keep energy artificially cheap. As a consequence, we convert valuable cropland into large suburban houses, and spend more time driving SUVs around the freeways.

Anyway . . . higher pay or not, I’m jealous of the five weeks of vacation that I’d get if I worked in Europe. On the other hand, Wired reports that American employers have mostly come to accept the fact that Internet access means some amount of employee slack time:

Companies are growing more accepting of the idea that workers will fritter away part of the workday shopping online, according to purveyors of employee internet-monitoring tools. Most employers engage in some sort of monitoring of workplace internet access. But rather than block all shopping sites, employers preoccupied with productivity are more apt to set time limits on access. Today . . . employers commonly permit use of non-work-related sites for around an hour a day.

Danny  working at Tellme in 2000
Danny at work at Tellme, in 2000. (Thanks, Angus D.)

Which is probably consistent with my own work patterns. But then, like many tech-savvy folks, I do some work from home in the evenings on a regular basis. Back when I worked at Tellme, I made less distinction between work and non-work. It was all a continuous blur, like Frank Denis:

At the office, people read Slashdot, read their private mail, and they work, but on their own projects and on their remote home computer. The corporate tasks are limited to replying to needed tasks.

Thanks to ssh, at home, people connect to the office servers in order to do the job they were supposed to do in the day, and back to the office, they connect to their home computer in order to bring it up to date, sort their mail, etc.

Do what you love, love what you do, and get paid well for your passion.

Except, don’t get too involved mixing work with life, as you could get layed off, and your habits will become deeply confused. Granted, this is less likely to happen in Europe . . .

Mainly, I’m just glad to see that Americans are being cut some slack. I think that in the next decades you will see some seriously innovative experiments with how work time is structured, and the definition of “work” will also evolve. Stay tuned. :)

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Categories: Excerpts, Technology