A close friend recently wrote about the perils of globe-trotting. (Read Basab's post here). To summarize, globetrotting creates jet-lag, which lowers your life-span. That set me thinking about the other problem with hard-working tech companies in the flat world - the midnight bulb.
I'm not referring here to the blackberry indicator LED, which should be called the "2am light" given that most crackberry addicts usually sneak a peek into the bbry at the 2am loo trip. Nope, not that kind of light.
I'm referring instead to the old phrase about burning the midnight oil. Given that people working in global companies need more light than 1 lumen, a more contemporary phrase would be "lighting the midnight bulb".
Flat-world companies light the midnight bulb more. Take me, for instance. I started yesterday with a 5am conference call, and then had calls and meetings until - umm- about 5pm. Then, I got enough time to get back home, change back into my PJs, and then get on a 6pm call that went on till 11pm. Fortunately, on the phone, no one knows you smell like a dog!
My tech firm isn't quite the evil, soul-stripping enterprise. No Sir! Well, at least it isn't alone in this 24hr culture. There's a recent HBR article about the "dangerous allure of the 70-hour workweek". (HBR article abstract here). Everyone's doing it.
Flat-world companies do this out of necessity. If you wait for people to interact with their global colleagues over email, you can forget about closing any discussion anytime this year. The flatter the company hierarchy, the higher the need for more people to know what's going on. People can't know what's going on unless someone tells them. No one can tell a person anything unless its real-time. Welcome to the world of 24x7 flexitime enterprise!
Yeah, I'm to blame too. Well, I could have said NO to the 5am call. But I didn't. Why? Well, if I don't get on that call, I'd have to fly across the world (to headquarters, none less), and meet the same folks to get the same work done. If I have to reduce my lifespan, I'd rather do that in my pajamas at home.
Fighting back is not easy. I try to fight back in my own way. If I do have to take call on silent mode at 5am, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm doing yoga while the phone's on speakerphone and mute. Heh! If its a 9pm call, you can be sure I'm editing my blog on the side.
I'm not listening, OK!? It's called continuous partial attention and, by God! I have it!