Friday, November 27, 2015

Retail workers still can't plan personal lives, while tech gets better at family leave

Retail workers find it hard to lead personal lives, and plan travel (which usually requires non-redundable deposits and reservations in advance) because of the short-term nature of retail work schedules, as Think Progress notes in an article about Kmart on Black Friday weekend.  I note, writing this post, the protests in Chicago on Black Friday in the ritzy retail districts, on both wage issues and police profiling. "Profit out of our misery."

No doubt, not only is the opening of stores on Thanksgiving an issue, but the idea of starting work at midnight or 5 AM is something a lot of “bourgeois” people (me) would rather not have to deal with.
But, of course, in my own world of IT, the 24x7 nature of the job is more critical today than it was during the peak of my working years.  In mainframe shops, online access (through CICS with customer service reps by phone) tended to be available mostly in the day time.  Night was for running batch cycles.  Of course, you could be on-call.  But for much of the time this was not an issue, and you tended to get better at it as the years went by – and most systems were quite stable in production.
They had to be so (or you didn’t keep your job).

Today, of course, end-users as “ordinary people” are more critical, meaning that high tech companies have to keep engineers working round the clock, much as operations (and to some extent systems programmers) did in the 70s through the 90s, during my heyday.

That reality of modern computing may have one  indirect beneficial effect: making the most prosperous tech companies more generous with paid leave, including family leave, as Mark Zuckerberg’s own recent fatherhood demonstrates very publicly now.  But, this tends to help only the more highly skilled professionals.

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