Sunday, May 31, 2015

Family-friendly work policies can run into on-call duties

Clair Cain-Miller has a series on family-friendly culture in the workplace (and parental leave) in the New York Times “Economic View” column, Business "Upshot", p. 4, “The problem with work is overwork: As careers cut into downtime, family-friendly policies can have unintended results”, link here.  The online title is more terse: “The 24/7 work culture’s to on family and gender equality”.  She discusses a Harvard Business School study by Robin Ely.
Does being on-call for production support when you can work from home online really cut into family life?  My own experience was varied, but some of the people who were most dependable when called for production nighttime abends were those with several children.  But there were some who resented the intrusion.  There was a tendency toward the end for single people to deal with more of this.  And because the positions are salaried, overtime isn't paid, although comp-time is often taken. 
One aspect, however, was downsizing.  After a sudden (but expected) layoff at ING at the end of 2001, the remaining staff was given a much larger on-call responsibility; one person was suddenly on-call, as the person who had been on for that week was on the layoff list!  Family responsibility had nothing to do with it!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Zappos use of "Holocracy" (self-managed teams) seems confusing, as reported in the media

Zappos (an online shoe vendor) has attracted attention for removing bosses and job-titles for “self-managed teams”, as in this story on Dice, story link here. Other companies that have done this include Valve (a games vendor) and Gore-Tex (a fabric manufacturer).
Other say that this device provides a hidden layer of management that encourages bullying.
But back in the 1990s this idea was promoted in “Team Handbook” as “Total Quality Management”. The idea was presented where I worked at USLICO while it went through being acquired by NWNL-ReliaStar.
But even Bradford National in the 1970s used the term “Member of Technical Staff” for all persons on its Medicaid MMIS project, when I worked there.
But Rachel Emma Silverman has a story in the Wall Street Journal this week indicating that, at Zappos at least, 200 associated decided that "Holocracy"  wasn’t for them and quit, link here
Contradicting the idea was the story of one Zappos associate “promoted” to “customer service manager”.

One time, in 1988, I was actually given a “direct report” without my knowledge.  That event can cause potential legal problems and conflicts of interest, and employers should not give people titles they did not ask for.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

WSJ article raises issue of overtime pay for taking smartphone emails off duty, when exempt

The Wall Street Journal has an article Thursday by Lauren Weber, on whether employers are liable for overtime if they require employees to answer emails (mostly now on company-issued smartphones) off hours, link here.
The distinction is, of course, whether the employee is “exempt” (salaried), when he or she is not.  Over time, the Labor Department has tended to narrow its interpretation of the FLSA.  The article gives some good examples. 
Computer programmers who are paid salaries to maintain in-house applications have typically been regarded as exempt, and not paid for being on-call.  Employers, as a matter of practicality, often give comp time when associates respond to production problems.  Sometimes they give higher raises. 
Tension occurs when some employees are unable to complete work because of family issues, and other employees (sometimes childless, for example) take up the slack without being compensated.  This is a possible argument against mandatory paid family leave.
Employees who work under W-2 agreements at client sites for personnel firms probably would get paid for answering correspondence off hours, but this would be closely watched.  
When employers issue smartphones and laptops or tablets, conflict issues can occur with travel, with personal use of these resources.  I've always used only my own resources when on the road (except for a US Census laptop once; on that trip, I carried my own laptop and the Census one, both, but used only my own cell phone.) 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What if Microsoft insists on updating your computer when you have to catch a flight?

I got a huge update today from Microsoft on my machines, 40 of them in Windows 8.  And it also seemed that it did not give me the customary two days Restart with Update.

In fact, it offered Shut Down with Update and Restart with Update.  What if I had to make a flight?  I always turn off my computer and disconnect it (one of them, the HP Envy, is a “desktop” requiring current) if I leave for a long time.  This is not good.

The Malicious Software Removal update takes a particularly long time in both W7 and W8. 


Sunday, May 10, 2015

In a real workplace, paid family leave plays out in different ways

There’s a back-story to the paid family leave debate, even among progressive companies that offer it.
Childless workers claim that their coworkers or bosses don’t think their lives are as “important”. Sometimes they wind up working overtime, which often goes unpaid in a salaried environment, to cover work for those who took off time for children.  This started becoming a problem for me in the 1990s;  in the 80s, everyone had been absolutely responsible for his or her own work.  On the other hand, I got a bigger raise than I would have for the emergency on-calls for others.
The problem got started written about in the 1990s.  On a pre-move trip to Minneapolis in 1997, I remember seeing a Wall Street Journal article by a childless woman working for a law firm.
Generally, in my own career, most parents got good at working from home and got their jobs done.  
The problem bifurcates.  Defenders of mandatory paid family leave point out that it’s a necessary counter to adjusting to equality by gender in the workplace, from a time when women stayed in the home. That debate doesn’t consider childlessness. It’s also true that the fairness problems seem to affect women more than men, in general. 
It’s also true that some women lose traction in their careers when they have kids.  On the other hand, married men with kids tend to advance more quickly than singles, because they have more incentive to behave competitively, although there are spectacular exceptions, especially in tech and entertainment.

Also, more childless people now get involved with eldercare, given an aging population with fewer kids.

There is a problem in logic if an employer has to reassign work to someone else other than the person paid to do it.  The other person might not be paid at all (in a salaried environment) or the employer might have to spend more.  A childless person could "lowball" those with families and be more likely to survive a downsizing or layoff later. 
Here are a few more references:  “Careerists”,  “City-data”, and especially Forbes

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Internet Archive has interesting job openings

Recently Jason Scott (Textfiles) tweeted about job openings at the Internet Archive, and it’s an interesting link. Are these jobs in San Francisco of the Bay Area? 
Archive includes the “Wayback Machine” which gives a record of what websites looked like I the past. 
My first website, “”, was set up in 1997 and kept until summer 2005, when everything was moved to “”. I can still see what the content looked like “way back” in the past. 
The name “hppub” has been reused since (for a while by an online casino), and it seemed also that when this happened, the wayback mechanism didn’t work for a while.  But it works now.
Conceivably, forensics could look at archives to see what people posted in the past, and this could be done with job applicants, although I haven’t really heard of it being searched very much in practice (whereas modern social media sites are often checked).  People can have archives removed (as just search engine results can be removed). 
It still amazes me that this group has enough space for the entire akashic record of the Web. First picture above is "" on March 25, 2002 (after a major update), and the second is at the end of 2002 (after another restructuring). 

Monday, May 04, 2015

Problem where Windows 8.1 hangs when printing

Here is a little more history on the instability I have with the HP Envy desktop.
I needed to submit an amended return on state income taxes.  I brought up the HRBlock PDF of the tax returns and went to the printing panel and specified only the pages for the state return, and changed the default “One Note” to “Brothers printer”.  When I tried to print, the machine froze on 0% printed.
I pressed the power button and got the machine to force-restart and brought up the PDF again.  I tried to print the entire document, and the machine seemed to freeze again. But this time, when I hit the power button, it started blinking and printed three pages.  I hit the power button (on the computer, not the printer) again and it printed the rest of the document.  Then the computer worked normally.  I went ahead and restarted it properly from the Windows 8.1 desktop power options anyway.
Normally, I can print Word and other PDF’s (like movie tickets) without incident.  Something seems to be  different about the way HRBlock formats its PDF’s.  Somewhere, between Hewlett Packard firmware, Windows 8.1 (both with many updates), and Adobe there is a coding problem.  Maybe another update from HP or Microsoft would fix this.  I haven’t tried this on  a Toshiba, that would take time to set up. 
The events log shows here:

“The server {1B1F472E-3221-4826-97DB-2C2324D389AE} did not register with DCOM within the required timeout.”

“The server {BF6C1E47-86EC-4194-9CE5-13C15DCB2001} did not register with DCOM within the required timeout.”
I’ll check with HP.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

"May Day": convenience stores desperate for minimum wage graveyard shift workers, and the rest of us depend on them

Well, May Day starts out with a somewhat Maoist view of the job market.  I went to a larger 7-11 yesterday, and saw a desperate-looking “Help Wanted” sign, for someone to work the graveyard shift from 11 PM to 7 AM Friday nights through Monday nights.  It sounds like the most undesirable shifts possible, in one of the most dangerous (from exposure to crime) minimum wage jobs.  Actually, I don’t know that it was minimum wage – the night shift would need supervision, too.
This is the real world that the rest of us depend on.  They used to say, a convenience store or especially fast-food place is where you find out "if you can work."  
Of course, the IT world, with social media companies and everything online, is much more a 24x7 employment world that it was when I was “working”, and when operations was considered “proletarian”.  Systems programmers, though, had to work a lot of weekends to do upgrades (like to new levels of CICS).  And, when working for Univac back in the 1970s on benchmarks in St. Paul, I remember the all-nighters in Eagan. 
No wonder, intentional communities require that everyone work.