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Everyday perceptions of the internet.

lizpolaris's picture

I have worked from home for more than 4 years now, since the large corporation I work for is trying mightily to reduce employee expenses (including offices), compensation, benefits, and employees themselves (in the US - all foreign workers welcome).

It occurs to me that at this point, I've never met 99% of the people I work with daily. My coworkers are no longer friends. Some faceless voice over the phone who I can't go to coffee with will never be my friend, just by definition. We can never really share anything in person.

If you do find you have something in common with someone and you want to get to know them 'outside' of work, the only choice is the one I'm using right now. That is, I have to turn that coworker into an internet acquaintance. Then the person can spend time off hours with me exchanging ideas, photos, blog entries, facebook, whatever.

So in essence, my acquaintances on the internet are more real to me than my coworkers.

Look at it this way, my coworkers can be fired any day or moved to some other project in the company. In which case we would lose all connection abruptly via our work network and phone calls. So in order to maintain contact, I have to bring them into the more 'solid' existence of the rest of the web/internet. That relationship doesn't just vanish at the whim of some executive.

This is not to say that internet acquaintances are more vital than friends in the real world - not at all. But unlike my coworkers, I've met the majority of my online acquaintances. Overall, this makes my non-work time spent online more 'real' to me than when I'm working.

This realization came to me when I was wondering why I and my coworkers feel so disconnected from each other and the company we work for. It's not just the threat of layoff, the crazy policies - those were there to some extent when we all went to a building. It's that there's no feeling of permanance or connection to the people I work with. I think no matter how committed you try to be to your career or profession, this is an alienating way to work. And it will ultimately be unsuccessful.

There is such a push to turn knowledge workers into piecemeal assembly line workers. But without continuity of project, people, environment - how can employment be anything more than earning money? As far as investing actual thought and creativity, there's nothing there.

Back to the idea of working over the internet - pop psychology tells us internet addiction is a problem. The amount of time we spend online is unhealthy. Certain the work time online would fit into that because it doesn't contribute to giving a person any social connection. In that regard, it's actually WORSE than the rest of what we do online. Because your work connections are less likely to be meaningful or long-lasting if they are only remote and they are less likely to require any creative or deep thinking.

So after work, I remain online in order to connect with people or places which do mean something to me. Ah, the perils of the sedentary life...

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Submitted by ubetchaiam on

"how can employment be anything more than earning money?". Now that I'm out of the 'workforce', and can reflect on all the years of struggling for the legal tender, I gotta laugh at the charade that being in 'management' is.

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

Or it can be slapped together shit which meets the requirements. Guess which one is more profitable over time, due to efficiency, ease of modification, portability, performance and fewer bugs to fix?

In a workplace which appreciates and promotes creativity, exchange of ideas, and healthy competition (through rewarding innovative solutions and peer recognition), you will get that extra effort and people enjoy their work. While I worked at that company in the 80's, the one I'm with now used to be that way but is now an outsourcing piecemeal shop. Our clients have noticed a sharp quality decline. This is why I say we will ultimately be unsuccessful. In the foreign countries where my company operates, you will find the reward structure I describe above but not in the US. It's really disheartening to watch global team members get bonuses and promotions after a major project success while the US workers get nothing and/or get laid off for the same effort.

Also, the global workers don't work from home. And if they do, the company pays their expenses. In the US, you must work from home and pay for your own internet, cell phone, and office supplies. US employees are actually subsidizing the company in order to stay employed.

Submitted by lambert on

What you said:

. It's really disheartening to watch global team members get bonuses and promotions after a major project success while the US workers get nothing and/or get laid off for the same effort.

They really do want to destroy us, don't they?

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

one reason I often work in libraries or coffee shops is to be in the presence of other people, even if they remain strangers. But I had not considered working at home from the point of view of esprit de corps.

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

I often wonder how extroverts cope with it. As an introvert, I identify with the motto "I'm OK, You're OK - in small doses." However, for a person who thrives on personal contact, it seems the work at home trend would exclude them from contributing to a technical field. If it gets to me, it would be intolerable for them I expect.

Submitted by lambert on

... and it's introverted work, for sure. Thing is, introverts are, are they not, a small percentage of the population. So what to the extroverts do???

NOTE What I feel the most is that the sitting is bad for my body. Really bad, as in life-shorteningly bad. I have not yet been able to bring myself to use a stand-up desk.

Submitted by lambert on

... but when one is in the throes of creation, even of a very low level sort of creation, like a FaceBook page, it's very hard to "step away from the computer."

twig's picture
Submitted by twig on

for more than 20 minutes at a time. Wow!

For those of us who belong to the Short Attention Span Club, breaking up blocks of time works really well. I use a program called Pomodoro, because it's simple and works for me:

The technique uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals (referred to as "pomodoros") separated by breaks and is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.

It's great for anyone who gets antsy after 20 minutes or so of sitting. Also, it dovetails nicely with the "after 20 minutes, get up and walk around for two minutes" exercise idea.

Submitted by lambert on

Sometimes for hours, so I get up a little creaky.

But the sitting is bad for my body, very bad.

Submitted by ubetchaiam on

Just some personal experience to ,perhaps, encouraae you to get up from the sit down creativity.
I've over 30 years in the computer industry -now ended 4 years ago- and most of it was spent sitting down behind a tube and then when the net came about, going home and sitting there surfing.
Now I have to wear compression stockings unless I want my feet and ankles to look like I have a case of early elephantiasis and have the precursive vein conditions that could lead to chronic venous insufficiency.
NO amount of 'creativity' is worth treating your body badly, so get up and follow the commenter who sad don't sit for more than 20 minutes. OR get a standup desk. ;->)

NWLuna's picture
Submitted by NWLuna on

monitor & keyboarder holder or desk. I mean really adjustable, so you can use it when your sit, then just raise it when you stand. The drawback is they are quite pricey, at least for median-income householder types.

Our bodies weren't designed to sit and use computers all day. But I understand about feeling glued to the keyboard when in the middle of a project.

Article on sit/stand desks: