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Google co-founder says we should all work less - so how come those with jobs are working more than ever?

over-work

via Flickr © normalityrelief (CC BY-SA 2.0)

So, the multi-billionaire co-founder of Google, Larry Page, (whose personal worth is somewhere north of US$32 billion) descends briefly from Mount Olympus (otherwise known as the Page Mansion in Palo Alto, California) to spend an hour or so no more than a few arms lengths from mere mortals and provide them with godly guidance the essence of which is that the hoi polloi really ought not to work quite so hard - as if they have any choice.

In what was billed as a "fireside chat" (remember this is Silicon Valley in July so wildfires, maybe; cosy cuddle-ups around glowing embers on a snowy night, probably not) Mr. Page opined, "If you really think about the things you need to make yourself happy - housing, security, opportunity for your kids - it's not that hard to provide those things." Have you ever heard such ineffable hypocrisy. This from a man whose company was built on sleep-deprived employees relentlessly driven to work practically non-stop, usually for 12 to 16 hours a day, often for seven days a week. Those that couldn't do it were unceremoniously fired. Mr. Page though became a billionaire.

What's more, Larry Page doesn't seem to be able to appreciate that Google's greedy refusal to pay its dues means the "little people" have to work harder and pay more in taxes than they really should to make up the shortfall caused by Google and its grasping ilk failing to pay taxes in the first place.

Anyway, having laboured long to lay such an enormous philosophical bad egg, Mr. Page thereafter found himself a tad overstretched in the brainbox department and so was unable to explain just how the world's worker ants would be able to live on the reduced income that would be the inevitable corollary of fewer hours spent at work. The system doesn't pay the same wage for fewer days of work, you'd think even Larry might bear that in mind - but, hey, he's beyond all that.

Which brings us on to another area wherein people can be made to do more for employers whilst getting no more for themselves  - BYOD.

BYOD: A boon or a con trick?

The Bring Your Own Device trend is now a global phenomenon and it is blurring what used to be a fairly distinct boundary between work life and time and personal life and time. Thus, while companies have perfectly legitimate concerns about the security of devices, networks and their proprietary data being carried on employee's private comms kit, employees are rather more exercised about BYOD resulting in unpaid extra work and the already teetering work/life balance being further tipped in the wrong direction.

An article in IT Business Edge references a recent survey undertaken by a Silicon Valley-based company called "Egnyte". The organisation is involved in file sharing technology for enterprises, so it obviously has its own self-interested drum to bang but the results of the survey do stand as evidence of times changing not necessarily for the better.

Egnyte interviewed both employers and employees and whilst the main concern of the employers was security (72 per cent of employer respondents said BYOD could put corporate data in jeopardy and thus threaten the entire enterprise), 49 per cent of employees said that the introduction of a BYOD policy in their company would result in the employers expecting them to work for longer for the same money on a daily basis and to be available, on call, for unpaid extra work during the evening and at weekends.

The Egnyte survey states, "BYOD raises the risk that employees will [be expected to] work off the clock when an employee uses one device for work and personal purposes". It adds that managers will routinely expect workers to "respond to work emails during off-hours" and that if they are to avoid legal action (including damaging and expensive class-action suits) down the line they must ensure that they are not in breach of federal or state laws in failing to compensate staff for the extra hours worked.

Other results of the Egnyte say 36.5 per cent of individuals believe that a BYOD policy allowing the use of laptops, tablets and smartphones would result in them being obliged to work longer hours with  42.2 per cent of respondents saying that would feel fearful of their job security and therefore compelled to work on their own comms devices while commuting to and from work. What's more, 59.3 per cent of respondents said they would also feel sufficiently coerced by BYOD circumstance to work at home in the evenings, at weekends and  on holiday. Meanwhile, 9.6 per cent felt it necessary to work whilst socialising.

The Leisure Society. The dream that became a nightmare of ever-expanding work

Those of us sufficiently long in the tooth will remember when governments sold us the dream that technology would free us from lives of wage-slave drudgery. We would live in a time of mass leisure with machines doing the endless grunt-work while we would labour no more than 20 hours a week doing important "work" that wouldn't be work at all really because it would be tailored to our individual skills, abilities and aspirations. It was all Utopian bollocks of course and a precursor of the claptrap trotted out in July 2014 by Larry Page.

But then he was in conversation with his Google co-founder, Sergey Brin and both were being given an easy ride by moderator Vinod Khosla, who is a venture capitalist and also just happens to be a billionaire and thus part of a commonplace and representative sector with an absolute right to pontificate about how easy work is and how unimportant it is to earn money - when you are rolling in it.

What's more, if the drones do get a bit more leisure time, they could spend it Googling and adding a little more to the Page/Brin money mountain. After all, as Mr. Page says, "We only work to make ourselves feel needed." So sod the mortgage, the groceries, the commuting costs, the car, the fuel prices, the healthcare plan, the insurance, the phone bill and the Internet account. If the debt collectors and the bailiffs come after you for missed payments, refer them to Larry. He's here to help.

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