No Smooth Road

But we go round, or scramble over obstacles

Quote of the Moment

There is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

| D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The various catastrophes continue. Wildfires burn down the West, torrential rain falls on the South and Northeast, and the Delta variant cuts down the unvaccinated members of the Trump death cult, keeping the pandemic on the rise. However, as Lawrence tells us, ‘we’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen’.

The Honeymoon Is Over

Bloomberg reports that Deutsche Bank calls end of honeymoon phase with remote work:

Deutsche Bank is calling the end of the honeymoon phase for employees’ relationship with remote work.

A growing number of workers report feeling isolated from colleagues, Deutsche Bank said in a report to clients. Women are increasingly likely to develop musculoskeletal problems due to inadequate remote-work setups, the report said, and nearly 40% of American workers said they felt exhausted after a full week of virtual meetings.

“Despite our initial honeymoon, people are starting to realize that the freedom of work from home does have some downsides: dilution of company culture, coordination issues and even the mental well-being of some workers,” Deutsche Bank analyst Marion Laboure said in the report.

Even so, a proprietary survey conducted by the firm showed people expect to continue working from home two to three days per week once the Covid-19 pandemic is no longer deemed a threat. The firm said it expects offices in major financial hubs including New York City and London to refill quickly—pointing to increased ridership on public transit systems in both cities as an early sign that workers are getting back to their desks.

If the company is concerned with workers’ musculoskeletal health, Deutsche Bank could always outfit work-at-homers with better chairs and tables. And the MTA in New York is still about 50% of prepandemic norms, so workers aren’t streaming back to the office.

This is just another case of workwashing. We’ll see where things stabilize once the Covid-a9 numbers come down.

Yes, New York’s numbers look more like Canada or Germany, but still…

Other reports — like this — suggest the honeymoon ain’t over yet:

[A] report released Wednesday [31 August, 2021], conducted by the Conference Board, surveyed 2,400 U.S. workers:

  • 42 percent said they were worried about returning to work for fear of contracting Covid-19 or exposing family members to the virus, up from 24 percent of respondents in a survey in June.

  • 29 percent said they were unsure if they would remain at their current job for the next six months. Among those looking for jobs, 80 percent said that their employer’s stance on flexible work arrangements was very or moderately important in their decision to look elsewhere.


Business Bigamy

Apparently, some people are working two full-time jobs, and getting away with it. There is a website that is promoting this scheme, called Overemployed.

The site provides tips and tricks like this:

Pros And Cons To Working Two Remote Jobs

First, make sure you’ve got the self-discipline and communications skills to handle two full-time remote jobs, including being a master in setting low expectations. Else, burnouts will happen. Second, you’ll need to accept average-to-above average performance in one job (the one you consider your primary job) and mediocre-to-subpar performance in the other job. Over the long term, this may have implications for your career and professional network. If you want to sit in the C-suite, then you should focus on one job and be a superstar. But if you don’t care about a potentially unhappy boss or workplace politics, then this path is for you – a double income and early financial freedom.

It’s just a scam but sounds like an amusing plotline for a Netflix movie.

I liked the story of the telephone company employee who about ten years ago outsourced his IT jobs to a pair of guys in China for like 10% of his pay and then started moonlighting on the job. At least he was giving good value for the money. Instead of firing him, they should have promoted him: he had the highest ratings of any IT tron there.

Share work futures


In China's government says '996' illegal, Zeyi Yang looks into reports that the Chinese government is stepping in to curtail the 996 practice (9 to 9, 6 days a week) common in tech circles there:

The "996" work culture — a 12-hour, six-day work schedule that had been popular among Chinese tech companies until recently — is a serious violation of Chinese labor law, according to China's Supreme People's Court and its Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

On Thursday, the two government bodies released a collective memo of ten court decisions related to workplace overtime disputes. In one case, an employee of an unnamed courier company was fired for challenging the firm's 996 work schedule. China's current labor law requires that work overtime not exceed 36 hours in one month, but under the 996 schedule, an employee's monthly overtime can reach 128 hours. In the Thursday memo, the Supreme People's Court said the 996 schedule is "a serious violation of the law pertaining to maximum work hours" and the courier company's policy should be deemed invalid.

While the 996 schedule has always violated labor laws on the books, rules curbing overtime have long been honored in the breach, and the government has kept a hands off attitude. 996 was embraced and promoted by many Chinese tech companies to power high-speed growth. Jack Ma, of all tech figures, famously said 996 should be seen as a "blessing." But most of China's Big Tech companies have terminated the overtime schedules in the past few months after public opinion turned against it, following several high-profile overwork deaths. Now the highest judicial body in government is making clear it's also opposed.

I think it's wrong to call 996 a 'work culture': it's a coercive labor policy practiced by companies who are actively exploiting workers. It's like calling child labor a work culture.

I’ve written about 996 before.

The question is 'will the Chinese government actually go after companies that promote or demand 996?'