Time to bring back the fruit bowl

Whatever happened to the bowl of fruit in the workplace? Not to mention the endless supply of soft drinks and the gaming machines.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

When I started writing about technology at the turn of the century, skills shortages were all the rage and employers bent over backwards to get staff.

It wasn't just in Silicon Valley either.

In those pre-"tech wreck" days, one Auckland, New Zealand, IT company proudly showed me their "chill room," featuring beanbags and pool tables.

A call centre operator was also excited to reveal its artificial beach in the office, complete with real sand and sunbeds. I think star performers were even given cocktails.

My, how times have changed.

I guess it was inevitable that with the Great Financial Crisis there would be some cost-cutting, but it seems that Kiwi employers still have a lot to learn that they haven't learnt from the lessons of the past, and some are going too far.

I was quite appalled to hear that increasing numbers of IT workers are suffering burnout as their working weeks lengthen.

On the one hand, this might be good news if business is increasing as the economy grows and this is a short-term thing while organisations adjust to higher levels of business. But it seems that many are having to do more with less as their customers become even more demanding.

However, as is widely known, you do not always get the best out of your staff by overworking them, especially in a career like ICT where a clear head is best for thinking. We are knowledge workers, after all, and we won't perform at our best if we are constantly shagged out from long hours.

Indeed, there will come a point when a decent IT worker will say "enough is enough" and move on, perhaps to Australia, as so many do.

We constantly hear about skill shortages and how the ICT sector must do its best to attract people to the industry. Increasingly, it is doing more to promote working in the sector, with recent events targeted at school children who had been told that ICT offers a better future than many a graduate career.

The Institute of IT Professionals (formerly known as the NZ Computer Society) has also announced an industry first by conducting a major survey into what drives ICT workers.

One of its aims is to use the findings to help devise policies to attract and retain ICT workers.

One thing we know already is that money isn't everything and lifestyle counts for many, too.

Stories of overwork in the sector is mere short-sightedness and only serves to damage the recruitment efforts of the "good guys".

We hear that ICT has a great future in New Zealand, with many opportunities expected in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

However, the country won't get the staff it needs if the "bad guys" overworking their staff tarnish the image of the sector with stories of burnout.

You may wonder why I raise the issue of burnout. Aren't I tarnishing the image of Kiwi ICT with this story?

Maybe, but you should never hide the truth. It just makes it all the more beholden on the "good guys" to do all they can to stamp out the appalling behaviour of the bad.

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