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February 19, 2013

TESCO forces workers to wear electronic monitoring devices

Do think it looks like a collar? Does it explode if they leave the premises? Work is Becoming More Like Prison As Some Workers Forced to Wear Electronic Bands That Track Everything They Do (Including Bathroom Breaks) | Alternet
The Irish Independent reports that grocery giant TESCO has strapped electronic armbands to their warehouse workers to measure their productivity, tracking their actions so closely that management knows when they briefly pause to drink from a water fountain or take a bathroom break. These unforgivable lapses in productivity impact workers' performance score, which management then apparently uses to terrify them into working faster. "The devices give a set amount of time for a task, such as 20 minutes to load packets of soft drinks. If they did it in 20 minutes, they would get 100pc, but would get 200pc if they were twice as fast," writes the Independent. Although TESCO denied that bathroom breaks impact productivity scores, one former staffer the Independent spoke with said he got a "surprisingly lower" score when he took a bathroom break. "Sometimes, management would call staff to an office and tell them they had to do better if their scores were low." "I had really easy assignments and when I'd come back after a break, I would get a horrendous score and wonder why," he said. He added that since the introduction of the device workers faced increasing pressure to produce more and more. But working people close to death has some downsides for companies. Studies show that work stress is linked to physical and mental ailments, from sleep deprivation to chronic disease. In the end, stressed, sick workers saddle companies both with rising health costs (for those that actually pay for employee health expenses) and the costs of high turnover. According to the CDC, excessive workloads and changing demands are the biggest triggers of work stress.
*Thanks, Alan!*

February 16, 2013

Dear Landlord: On the danger of relying on free internet services

Right after this guy posted this, Posterous announced they were shutting down. Dear "Landlord" - raganwald's posterous
I used to sell things for a living. One thing I remember is that there is a tremendous gulf between free and a dollar. In companies, you can’t spend a dollar without having to justify it to someone, to make a case for it. Everyone wants to know who the vendor is, how long they’ve been around, whether we can trust them, and whether what they’re selling is worth a dollar. So, although your offices are crowded, that actually doesn’t provide me with any security that other people have thought things through and decided you are a good bet. For all I know, they could decamp tomorrow for some other hot, free thing. This feels like fashion, not business, and it’s going to keep feeling that way until you can show me some tenants who actually pay, not just squat. I have a more serious problem with your offices. A lot of folks just like you build these great offices, lure people like me in, and then wind up getting jobs as architects working for someone else. Sometimes, what we thought were office buildings ended up being exhibits in someone’s portfolio, whether deliberately or by happenstance. I think the real estate guys call this the “talent acquisition” business: A bigger company buys the office building, gets the designers as employees, and promptly knocks the building down. Who needs it now that the architects found high-paying jobs doing something else? Me, that’s who. If I move in, I’m committing my business to your place. I don’t want to read a six-page letter telling me what a great ride it’s been and how much fun you had building this place and how much you’re getting to sell out, and oh yes, the loading dock is open 24 hours to help me move my stuff the hell out before you bulldoze. Architecture models often have these tiny plastic figurines that look like people walking around. If I'm supposed to move in before you sort out your “monetization strategy” and “exit plan,” this isn't an office and I'm not a tenant. It's a model of an office and you're asking me to be the plastic figurine sitting at the foamcore desk.