Showing posts with label Telecommuting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Telecommuting. Show all posts

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Business Decisions and Home Quarantine

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen, do not blame me for font and spacing weirdness Blogger/Google often does this.
Edited 4-02-2020

While working for The Company, I wondered about "Work From Home" (WfH, which is known by similar names) and was told that it was a mite difficult. Difficulties had been solved and The Company began rolling out the program on a test basis with a select few who had stellar production and quality.



In a rushed sequence of events, many of us in a cubicle farm were sent to work at home. The Company is unaware of important things that are happening, including adjustments to COVID-19.
Credit: Unsplash / Annie Spratt
A bit later, they began to send people home a few at a time. Suddenly, The Company saw fit to remove people from the cube farm and send us away — probably because of COVID-19. That's fine from my perspective because I have a heart thing, diabetes, and I hit the six decades mark. Okay, now I have been up and running for a week.

Truth is still truth if even if someone dislikes it. I'll say some things my superiors will not like, but their names are not in this. (Besides, people don't need to know that my primary job is venomous snake wrangling and data entry at Universal Widgets.) Essentially, The Company is profoundly cheap. 


When President Trump signed the tax cut bill, other companies were giving their employees raises and large bonuses. We had fundraisers to pay for our own perks. The IT people would foul something up and then refuse to fix it unless forced, telling us to use time-consuming workarounds. (Do they work for Facebook, too?) Maybe I'll give you the Department of Labor case number where they were caught and penalized for cheating employees out of their wages, but not today.


There are many other examples that I may provide in subsequent articles, but in this case, we are expected to provide our own internet connection while other companies provided separate cable connections for their WfH employees. (Gotta pinch them rupees until Mahatma Gandhi screams in pain, don'tcha know.) Take note that I have many reasons to believe that this cable-sharing arrangement is definitely not a risk to secure data.



Providing Equipment

My own computer is a tower than runs Windows 7, and it has a bay for peripherals as well as a DVD-ROM. Don't be knocking my eMachine, it's been a workhorse for several years. I may have to get a new computer soon. The computer I received startled me because at first because it's the size of a modem. That is the size of the work computer, but without the other stuff that isn't necessary for this activity anyway. Had to plug in a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I used my own shorter ethernet cable because the one they provided would have been far too long. Okay, this cowboy was ready to saddle up.

In the Environment

No, y'ain't going to see a picture, sorry. I used some desk space and had to figure out how to set up the system in this one-bedroom apartment. (Remember, this was a hurried thing and I didn't know what to expect.) Safe enough, we're on the second floor and nobody can see anything from outside. No cameras and telecommuting, so nothing important will be overheard. I had to use a laptop table that was conveniently available — well, my wife had to relocate the slow cooker — for the keyboard and mouse. Plus some adjusting of my chair and the chair mat on the carpet. That's all set.

Aside from a few differences logging in and signing on, the same desktop and applications appeared. This part was identical to working in the cube farm, which is nice because I didn't need to learning something new there. Although The Company is impinging on the internet connection that I pay for which is also used for my own computer's after-work activities, our Roku device, and so on, there doesn't seem to be a lag in connecting time for devices or processing the work. (Well, not everything is running at the same time, so maybe I'm ahead of myself on this point.) I was concerned that the cable company might give problems with data caps and such, but I don't foresee that happening.

Storm Clouds

Before I continue, I need to say that The Company is very large with multiple locations around the world. Dozens of others and I from this location are at the bottom of the food chain. We have team leads and so forth, followed by a supervisor, a manager above the supervisor, someone in charge of this location, and then even more "important" people farther away that probably could not do this work to save their lives. They are important according to The Company and worldly standards, but I, too, am created in God's image.

I have sympathy and respect for team leads, the supervisor, and the next manager up. While most of them care about us, they also have to deal with the "I'm rich and in charge, make me richer" mentality. If production standards aren't good enough or The Company made too many promises they couldn't keep, these folks have to be whip crackers. Then they have to look the people they depend on in the eye, including me when I have anxieties and issues. That management role is not the kind of position I want to be in.


Time Away from the Desk

The manager sent out a message on the instant messaging platform that over the past few days that uptime has dropped. Yes, we have to adjust, but get to work, no excuses. A day or two later, a very angry message came from the manager about a significant number of errors, which sounded like all of us are fouling up. That second message can be a separate post, so I will deal with the first one.

Uptime is a strange word that strikes me as counter-intuitive. It is a negative thing, and I have to think of it as up time, time that workers are up and away from their computers. Like most companies, we have two paid fifteen-minute breaks as well as a longer lunch break (ours is unpaid). The Company also allows some additional time for trips to the restroom, go to the coffee machine, quick phone calls, or whatever. But Comrade Worker, you must keep up the standards.

"Get with the program, Cowboy Bob! Corporations are all greedy and squeeze their employees until they have nothing left, then replace them. It's the way of the business world."

Might doesn't make right, old son. There are higher principles that these people reject in their love of money and worldly things. By the way, didn't Lee Iacocca say that if give your employees your best, they'll give you their best? Not happening from the bean counters at the top of the food chain, nosiree.

As an aside, because I am diabetic, I make frequent short trips to the restroom. My uptime should have improved because I do not have to make that long trek like before.

Consider all the Facts

Sure, I ride for the brand and try to meet the corporate standards. In fact, employers, I don't work for you. Yes, you sign the paycheck, but my Employer is above all y'all, and I want to glorify him most of all.

Although I have knowledge and life experience, it was made clear to me years ago that I am unworthy to express or even have ideas on how to make improvements. But we are the people that you depend on who work in the trenches. We know some things. So I'll ask questions and make my thoughts known here.


How were the production standards developed? I had asked a similar question of a previous manager ("he has decided to seek employment elsewhere", but we all know what that means) and what sample size was used, but he didn't know. Were the standards arbitrary, or were they based on actual production people? For that matter, which production people? Some know shortcuts (and even "cheats" better than others). Were the standards based on the best of the best? Everyone should have been included in serious testing conditions.


This is the same cheap company that used unreliable software (which I had distrusted since I began this job) to cheat us out of our wages. The same company, same IT department, says people aren't working. Why should I trust that? Why should any manager trust that


Since we are using our existing internet connections that are usually through the cable company, there are variations in connectivity and speed. I had to reboot my modem and router twice because they need it on occasion. In addition, the servers we use have to connect with the servers of The Company, and there are interruptions. I suspect we may appear to be not working while the system is reconnecting. Part of that may be Wuhan Quarantine Internet Clogging (a term I made up, hope you like it). Many people are home and going online. Someone skilled in the nuts and bolts part of IT can correct me if I'm wrong about the internet overload.


There are times we have to wait for team leads to check on certain issues because providers often have no idea how to fill out the forms, so they slap some mighty strange stuff in there. Send the code to the team lead, let him or her check it out and get back to us. The line from The Company is, "We take that into account". Yeah, sure. Corporate excuse that I don't accept.


Related to that and to the issue of productivity is when we have to study the forms. Did Skippy write a 7, 9, 0, 6, or what? After some indecision, we call it illegible. But it took time.


In this kind of work, you have people of many ages and in varying degrees of heath. Several of us have medical conditions (one had chronic heart problems and died at home from a heart attack a couple of weeks ago). I have said that The Company has a revolving door. People get hired and trained, then they find different jobs quick-like. Someone might way, "They didn't want to work!" Meadow muffins! That's an appeal to motive fallacy. Also upper management protects and attitude of, "The Company is a wonderful place to work. Don't you know who we are?" Yes, we do know who you are. Smell yourselves, drop your presuppositions, and see why you are losing good people.


But we are really units, automatons, right? Gotta count them beans and pinch them rupees, never mind that even robots need maintenance. Yes, I'm resentful because people should be treated like people. No, not coddled, don't be disunderstanding me. We do want to work and be productive except for a few sluggards. Some of the immediate supervisors, those I deal with, have compassion, which is a rare commodity. Folks at the top of the food chain know about money but are unskilled in dealing with people.


The whole world is adjusting to the novel virus now called SARS-CoV-2. Understanding, diagnosing, treating, testing (don't use faulty made-in-China tests and their ineffective face masks!), quarantines, lock-downs, and more. The Company sent people home, and most of the population of New York is at home, too. This includes frustrated and bored schoolkids. I had no time to plan for my own set-up (partly because I made inaccurate assumptions about what we would be using). Other people had to make drastic adjustments in a mighty big hurry. No wonder the uptime is somewhat lacking. It should improve, but don't be commencing with the forty lashes so soon.

As you can guess, this article has been building up for a while and current events are applicable. If I write more about this employer, this will be foundational. I expect that should someone from The Company happen on this, my concerns and observations will be rejected out of hand. Then I'll be fired out of retaliation. I'm just a cowboy that does the work and wants to not only glorify God but also please those who sign the paychecks. My sense of right and wrong are inapplicable to worldly people who consider us cogs in the wheel. Don't take the mark.
Maybe this missive will help other people learn how to treat employees.