off the cuff

Are you a worker or a drone?

Human beings are not bees and those who do their work well are bound to feel resentful of the freeloaders

Vanaja Rao, Special to Gulf News
17:32 April 5, 2018

We find different types of workers at the workplace. Some are committed and get down to doing their job as soon as they arrive. Then there are the social butterflies who make the rounds of the office in a meet and greet exercise. It doesn’t matter that they have seen all these people just the day before. It takes a while before they finally reach their desk and then they are on the phone, possibly informing family that they have arrived. By the time they knuckle down to work, a few hours have elapsed.

The sight of others with heads down, attending to their jobs, has no effect on them. To make matters worse, they are quite likely to distract those working by engaging them in conversation. Only when they are met with monosyllabic responses do they decide that they might as well make a start since everyone seems to be in no mood to communicate. They are similar to the drone bee who seem to have no duties and little purpose in life. On the other hand, the worker bee is the hardest working in the hive, doing all the jobs silently and efficiently.

However, human beings are not bees and those who do their work well are bound to feel resentful of the freeloaders. They will continue to work diligently but will feel under-appreciated and unrecognised. The drones will make the most noise and make their presence felt and heard even if their work output is abysmal. It is a sad fact of life that it is this segment that flourished in life. Work ethic, the principle that hard work is intrinsically valuable or worthy of reward, doesn’t seem to work in real life.

However, there are still places in the world where people have a “killer” work ethic. In Japan, the government has been trying for decades to set limits on work and on overtime, with Japanese men working more than 60 hours a week. Death from overwork is so commonplace in Japan that there is a word for it — karoshi. The first death from karoshi was reported in 1969.

In a bid to reduce the notoriously long work hours a drone has been developed. Known as T-Frend, it hovers over employees and blares music to force people to stop working and go home. Expected to be rolled out in April 2018, the T-Frend blasts out the strains of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, a Scottish tune typically used in Japan to announce that a store is closing. The drone is equipped with a camera, which stores footage on an SD card. T-Frend’s developers are also studying the possibility of giving the drone facial recognition technology to tell who is in the office after hours or whether there is an intruder.

Currently, administration officials at many companies push overtimers out of the door. But, ironically, this has resulted in these officials working overtime themselves. Firms have therefore turned to security companies for this task but it is a struggle as providing staff is not easy given a nationwide shortage of labour.

Ideally, there should be a happy medium between what happens in many workplaces and the situation in Japan. Perhaps someone should develop a drone that captures footage of how much work is actually accomplished during normal working hours. All those trips to the coffee machine or desks of co-workers should be “caught” on film and the management can take a call on whether too much time has been spent on fraternising or leisurely strolls along aisles.

And, maybe, those who remain at their desks glued to their work should be recognised. Of course, one has to determine whether there is sufficient productivity to warrant reward!