Every Breath You Take

[Content Note: Hostility to consent and privacy; surveillance; stalking.]

Once upon a time, the internet and mobile phones came to the (white collar) workplace, and everyone was excitedly talking about how it was going to revolutionize (white collar) work. We'd be so much more efficient! We'd be able to work from home! Our work-life balance was going to be extraordinary!

Hahahahahaha whooooooooooooooooooops!

Instead, now (white collar and other) workers never leave work at all. Not really. Slowly, there evolved an expectation that workers would answer their mobile phones and respond to email and digitally submit their TPS Reports (with new cover sheets) (did you even see the memo?) (I'll go ahead and make sure you get another copy of that memo) at all hours of the day and night. Always connected! Always plugged in! Always in competition with the RedBull-swilling 20-something douchebag with no kids, no pets, no elderly parent to care for, whose whole life is his work BOOYAH!, answering emails at 11:30pm on a work night.

No downtime. No real vacations. No work-life balance. No boundaries.

No privacy:
A Central California woman claims she was fired after uninstalling an app that her employer required her to run constantly on her company issued iPhone—an app that tracked her every move 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Plaintiff Myrna Arias, a former Bakersfield sales executive for money transfer service Intermex, claims in a state court lawsuit that her boss, John Stubits, fired her shortly after she uninstalled the job-management Xora app that she and her colleagues were required to use. According to her suit (PDF) in Kern County Superior Court:
After researching the app and speaking with a trainer from Xora, Plaintiff and her co-workers asked whether Intermex would be monitoring their movements while off duty. Stubits admitted that employees would be monitored while off duty and bragged that he knew how fast she was driving at specific moments ever since she installed the app on her phone. Plaintiff expressed that she had no problem with the app's GPS function during work hours, but she objected to the monitoring of her location during non-work hours and complained to Stubits that this was an invasion of her privacy. She likened the app to a prisoner's ankle bracelet and informed Stubits that his actions were illegal. Stubits replied that she should tolerate the illegal intrusion….
Stubits used "the program to continuously monitor her, during company as well as personal time." Which, under any other circumstances, would rightly be identified as stalking.

But, increasingly, all manner of personal tracking by employers—including employee "wellness" programs—are considered acceptable, as long as the tracking is done under the auspices of "efficiency," or "health," or "productivity," or "compliance," or any other red herring offered to mask that it's about nothing more than profitability and control.

Each boss for whom I've ever worked, some of whom were generally terrific and some of whom were appalling, had some level of totally unjustified paranoia that their employees were scamming them.

It didn't matter if everyone was getting their work done; it didn't matter that people came in early and skipped lunches and stayed late; it didn't matter that, like at many companies, people were salaried who shouldn't have been and thus were losing out on deserved overtime pay; it didn't matter if the boss was someone who would call you at home at night and expect you to pick up the phone and chit-chat about an idea zie'd just had.

If they saw one person fucking around on the internet for five minutes, obviously that person was a lazy scammer, probably indicative of an office full of lazy scammers, and it was time to lock shit down and scare some work ethic into these people!

It never mattered how much of their lives outside 8-6 (lol 9-5) people were giving (or having taken from them). That never counted. Work endlessly encroached on employees' lives, but employees' lives were never, ever, meant to encroach on work. The lines were blurred in one direction only.

Now, I know there are some bosses who are fucking terrific about work-life balance, even in corporate environments, but that is, unfortunately, not the norm. The norm is treating employees like their salary buys access to their entire lives.

The norm is pretending like having no official policy that you have to answer your mobile phone 24/7 means that, if you do, it's your choice. It's not a meaningful choice when you know that wanting some privacy will mean you lose out on raises, bonuses, promotions—because you haven't demonstrated sufficient commitment to the company; you haven't demonstrated sufficient willingness to be owned.

The norm is walking into an office that treats your life like their property, and seeing some bullshit motivational poster hung on the wall. "Work to live; don't live to work!" Without a trace of fucking irony.

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