Home Business IT Technology Prepare for the always-on backlash
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When the Australian Computer Society produced its survey of work habits late last month it found that more than one in five ICT workers spent more than 50 hours a week on the job. Instead of liberating workers, technology is ensnaring us. Well prepare for a backlash.

Speaking at Ne(x)twork, a conference organised by Fuji Xerox to explore the future of work, Scott Mason, director of products, marketing and strategy for Optus Business said that he hoped 'there is a bit of a backlash. We are so 'on' all the time.'

Stressing this was a personal rather than Optus viewpoint Mr Mason said that in the future people might come to question some of the health impacts of expecting employees to be available for work around the clock.

He said already there were concerns about teenagers' constant use of computer screens and lack of sleep. 'There may be a time when we all have to have some specific downtime,' he said.

Beth Winchester, executive general manager of human resources at Fuji Xerox, said that from an HR perspective; 'I have more requests about how to help stop people working than to start working.'

Ms Winchester said in addition health and safety professionals were 'freaking out' about the use of technology for work purposes in employees' home offices where it could not be monitored.

Cisco chief technology officer Kevin Bloch meanwhile hoped there would not be a backlash but he acknowledged that it was important to identify the difference between 'being efficient and working 24 hours a day versus being effective.'

Steve Godbee, IBM Australia CIO, said that it was a question of balance. 'If someone feels they have got to be connected 24x7 then it becomes the role of the manager to be on top of the worker,' and deal with the issue before it led to employee burnout.


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Beverley Head

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Beverley Head is a Sydney-based freelance writer who specialises in exploring how and why technology changes everything - society, business, government, education, health. Beverley started writing about the business of technology in London in 1983 before moving to Australia in 1986. She was the technology editor of the Financial Review for almost a decade, and then became the newspaper's features editor before embarking on a freelance career, during which time she has written on a broad array of technology related topics for the Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Boss, BRW, Banking Day, Campus Review, Education Review, Insite and Government Technology Review. Beverley holds a degree in Metallurgy and the Science of Materials from Oxford University and a deep affection for things which are shaken not stirred.