Feb2008

Remember the 1980s

Remember the 1980s? It was a brave new world for the electronics industry. The decade saw the origins of much of the consumer and professional equipment that is so commonplace today. And amid the launches of IBM PCs, Apple Macs and Sinclair C5s, we (the media) speculated on what our working lives would be like in the not-too-distant future.

Surely, we reasoned, with all this wonderful information and communications technology at our disposal, our working lives would be made a breeze. We would spend most of our time working from home, and our working hours would decrease as more and more of the “white heat of technology” was pressed into our service.

Well, so much for crystal balls. We may well be spending more time working from home, but it seems working hours have increased with time, rather than declining.

New data released this week by the Chartered Management Institute in support of the TUC Work Your Proper Hours campaign reveals that the whole of the engineering sector is the worst transgressor when it comes to unpaid overtime. And individuals in our sector are giving employers as much as 40 days per year “for free”, with many also reluctant to take time off when they are ill.

The report, dubbed the “Quality of working life”, also shows that the UK’s long-hours culture is not down to overbearing bosses. Asked why they worked over contract, only 2% claimed to be “pressurised to do it”, and just 3% claimed it was for career advancement.

While I don’t think I’ll get too many arguments if I postulate that the “long-hours culture” in question has its roots in the Thatcher era, with its mantra of restoring the country’s competitive position, I may well draw a small response if I speculate that it has now become a counter-productive culture. Mind you, it is somewhat ironic that something from that era should unite the TUC and the Chartered Management Institute in calling for its end.
This comment was originally published in the Electronicstalk Newsletter

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About the Author

Electronicstalk and this Editor's Blog are edited by Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini began his career in the electronics press with the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1980, cutting his teeth on a variety of learned and member publications, ranging from IEE Proceedings to Electronics and Power. He moved on to join the launch team of the innovative weekly Electronics Express in 1986, and became Editor just 18 months later. Sadly, Electronics Express lasted just four and a half years, wound up by the infamous Robert Maxwell. However, Laurence had already jumped ship and joined the world of electronics PR with the agency of the 1990s, Smith and Jones Communications. It seemed Laurence was lost to the world of journalism. But after 11 years we managed to lure him back as launch editor of Electronicstalk. Laurence is married to Sally and has a young son, Alexander.

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