‘Workaholic’ companies here to stay and prosper
MANILA, Philippines—We’ve all heard of workaholics—those who work out of compulsion to earn a lot of money, pursue wealth and keep up with the Joneses, get promoted or please a boss, those who set impossibly high standards, or those who have become so dependent emotionally on work that without it, they’ll probably fall apart or lose their identity.
But have you heard of workaholic companies? You’ve probably worked for some of them but don’t know what to call them. They’re the organizations and corporations that thrust workaholism on employees. They expect everyone to be at their work stations or desks early or at precisely 6 a.m. (the time the morning shift starts). They also expect their employees to skip lunch, work late and to think about office problems on weekends or on days when they’re off duty. And when the employees dare so much as to complain, they will get their comeuppance!
24 by 7
Take the case of call centers and the entire business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the country where employees pride themselves on working “24 by 7.” People are recruited by promising them “competitive salaries,” bonuses and allowances of all shapes and sizes, and opportunities for career growth.
But here’s the catch: their bodies and minds should be ready to slave for long hours, work on rotating shifts, and work on weekends!
This is not to bemoan the rise of BPO firms, which have helped create much government revenue and boost the country’s economy.
In a recent article in the Singapore Business Review, Tim Hird, managing director for Robert Half International Asia, a recruitment firm in Singapore, says the phenomenon of the 24/7 workplace and access made possible by technological advancements had led to hyper-connectivity and faster turnaround time, which undoubtedly is an advantage for businesses in this competitive world.
“But the pervasiveness of constant work connectivity also results in the erosion of personal space, higher stress levels and overall decline in the quality of life for employees,” he says.
Citing Robert Half’s workplace survey in 2011, Hird says the line between work and personal life is fast blurring for professionals in Asia Pacific. He says 69 percent of Singapore employees, for instance, tune into work even when they are out of the office or on holiday. The respondents’ reasons: they can be available in case of an emergency at work and filter through work e-mail to ensure less stress when they return to the office.
In a Reader’s Digest article titled “Are you a workaholic?” by Warren Boroson, a workaholic organization doesn’t necessarily have an edge over its competitors: like work addicts, such outfits may lack imagination.
These days, when layoffs have become a common business move wherein surviving employees are forced to pick up the slack and assume the responsibilities of the terminated employees, extra work can become overwhelming.
“Employers need to be realistic in their expectations to avoid overloading their staff and negatively affecting employees’ morale and work productivity,” Hird suggests. “A practical tip is, if you do want to stay connected with work, allocate some time at the end of the day or at the beginning of the day so you can catch up on your e-mail and then you can enjoy the rest of the day with your friends and family while on vacation.”
Kristina Meyer, writing for a recruiting services firm website, strongly recommends that employers parcel out work in a humane way.
“Avoid overloading employees by designing a system for keeping tabs on everyone’s workload…be aware of who’s doing what,” she says. “Also, while last-minute projects aren’t entirely avoidable, managers should give their employees plenty of advance notice when an assignment is coming down the pipeline. Employees who are constantly scrambling to get work done will feel stressed and will do just the bare minimum to get the job done.”
Quoting the CEO of an employee assistance program provider, Meyer says when employees are approaching burnout, they often develop a negative attitude that can spread to other employees and your customers.
“Employers should keep an eye out for any patterns in behavior that are out of the ordinary, such as increased negativity or an overall lack of enthusiasm,” she writes.
Meyer also advises managers to try not to spring too many surprises on employees. “Most employees want some sort of consistency so they know what to expect when they come to work every day. If there is going to be an increase in the workload, take some time to meet with the employees,” she says.
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