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Work life balance… sort of… May 19, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Workers Rights.

For an example of how workplaces are changing in the contemporary period there’s no better example than the statistic earlier in the month that 80% of Irish employees access social media at work. Okay, the report by William Fry law firm, is not perhaps quite as scientific as might be hoped for, but purely anecdotal observation of public and private work places suggests that the ubiquity of the mobile is now complete, or almost so.

Can’t say I blame people, work is, in large part for many, tedious. Anything that helps get people through the day is probably no bad thing. It also perhaps, indicates that the discipline of work places is now somewhat different to what it used to be.

I’d love to think that this is a sign of good things more generally, but I’m a little dubious. Perhaps because I see no real efforts societally to democratise working lives, again either in public or private workplaces. Most are run along lines that the most Stalinist command economy would look upon with envy. Autonomy is limited – and increasingly curtailed. Less union membership and unions that seem detached from workplace concerns adds to this.

So while there are changes, and some are better, some unfortunately are worse.

Take the following from the SBP and also reported in the Irish Times:

Irish workers spend an average of 56 minutes per working day on social media sites
More than 80 per cent of Irish employees access social media sites at work, spending an average of 56 minutes per working day on such sites, a new report has found.

Again, this is unsurprising. I asked an IT person in a place I worked about Facebook access and their take was that most people in the place had it on in their browser all day long.

Another employment, and this tallies with data that ‘more than 46 per cent of Irish employers do not have a social media policy in place, leaving them open to internal disputes, abuse and potential litigation’, was very unkeen to impose any sort of internet/social media policy, not least because middle and upper management had discovered the – ahem – joys of the internet and weren’t keen to see access to them curtailed.


Around 40 per cent of companies have imposed bans on employees accessing sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

But, for there is a but…

…as the majority of employees access social media from personal devices, the value of imposing absolute restrictions is limited, the report says.

In a way it’s an example of a brilliant contradiction within capitalism, between the near all pervasive push by social media/internet providers to encompass all our lives all the time, or as much as is humanly possible, and the requirements of individual workplaces – and perhaps the economy as a whole – to operate without interruption.

I’m sceptical in the extreme about Google glasses, but assuming they did catch on I wonder if and how that would be policed in workplaces.

What is the experience of people generally in relation to social media in workplaces?


1. GM - May 19, 2013

There is perfect autonomy in the private workplace: if it’s not worth your while being there, you quit. If you need better conditions to make it worth your while and they won’t give them to you, you quit. People quit their jobs all the time. You don’t need to be a union member to quit your job. You don’t need a “democratic” workplace. You can just quit.

It’s the complete opposite of the command economy, where you can be killed or sent to the gulag if you don’t do what the planners want you to do (i.e., where you are a slave).


WorldbyStorm - May 19, 2013

In a way it’s not the trolling, irritating as that is, it’s the naivety.


ejh - May 19, 2013

Tedious as all hell, too. I mean it’s like some kid who’s learned a song and is singing it over and over and over and over…


2. TheOtherRiverR(h)ine - May 19, 2013

I’d say it would depend on the workplace and the type of job. I work in Pharmacy and it would be absolutely unacceptable to log onto facebook or twitter during working hours (wouldn’t have the time in any case).

“Around 40 per cent of companies have imposed bans on employees accessing sites such as Facebook and Twitter.”

I’d have no problem with that. You’re an employee in a workplace. You’re assigned a task and frankly you shouldn’t have any deviations or distractions especially if its a high risk/high rate of error job. I don’t mind if you’re logging on during your lunch break (it’s your own free time) but otherwise stick to your job.

A way of getting around staff using personal devices would be to require them to use the workplaces wireless and to forbid them to use their service provider’s data streaming.


WorldbyStorm - May 19, 2013

I wouldn’t disagree at all really. My take is that outside of employments where access is necessary it is best to have clearly delineated policies either pro or against and in the latter instance allow access at breaks and lunch.

In relation to telephone calls I think it can be slightly different, in that it depends on the urgency of same. But then I remember entertaining (sort of) discussions about cigarette breaks in some private enterprises I was involved in and these things can get messy.


3. sonofstan - May 19, 2013

Slightly OT, and I’ve probably mentioned it before, but something I find telling is the way in which, in much commentary, ‘the workplace’ is automatically taken to be an office with a computer. Such a view occludes all tradespeople, retail workers, workers in the catering industry…. It’s as blinkered a view of working life as the old fashioned TU view of the unionised industrial operative in a large concern as being ‘the worker’ of which all other versions are but imperfect copies.

A good start to political education on the left would be finding out what people actually do at work, the conditions under which they do it, and how social and/ or isolated – or isolating – those conditions are. Building solidarity or class consciousness in a call centre where people are wearing headphone for 4 hours at a time, and where many may be non native-English speakers specifically hired to provide customer support to other countries is somewhat different to unionising the male factory floor in the sepia -tinged socialist photo album.


WorldbyStorm - May 19, 2013

And retail comes to mind as one where people are particularly ground down. Great points SOS.


4. crocodile - May 19, 2013

The teacher on my sofa points out that she can’t access Facebook etc on her classroom PC, because the Dept of Ed firewall blocks social networks as well as all sorts of random websites (Paddy Power, Fianna Fail). However, all the kids have smartphones in their pockets and can constantly check out these sites through 3G – so the only person in the classroom who’s inconvenienced is the teacher.


sonofstan - May 19, 2013

Can she not get a smartphone too?

I had a total backfire at a lecture recently where, channeling the inner Christian Brother, I stopped talking and said I’d resume:
‘when Matt is finished looking at his ‘phone’
(which was held up in front of his face and in full view).

‘I was taking pictures of the slides’ he protested, truthfully as it turned out.


WorldbyStorm - May 19, 2013

I feel your pain.

Two years back I found I had to regularly stop lectures due to people at the back using laptops to surf… whatevs…

The group sizes had quadrupled due to cuts and it provided more ‘cover’ for seriously effing about.


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