Wednesday, 28 January 2015


Following below is my comment to Ace Emerson's article "Living in a big rat race and running on empty" in The Ant Daily.

I fully agree with Ace's main point that employees today are working that much harder today and often do not have enough but rather the belief expressed in the article that work would be more greatly eased if more companies embraced  facilities enabled by "technology" or more precisely information and communications technology (ICT).

This is my comment starting with an excerpt from Ace's article:-

"With all the technology such as the Internet and smartphones that exist today, companies should really leave the “old” way of running things and embrace the new way of doing things with the help of the technologies that are readily available to us today because it can truly benefit both parties."

Please do not believe the rhetorical BS (bull shit) touted by the information and communication technology (ICT) industry marketers and the ICT media.

Whilst on the one hand, more use of ICT for online meetings will certainly help save employees from having to travel to office for face-to-face meetings, online banking saves us from having to go pay bills over the counter at the post office, e-payment saves us from having to cash cheques at banks and online shopping saves us from having to go to te shop - otherwise all these "wonderful" online ICT facilities intrude into our lives 24 X 7 and we find ourselves working wherever we are at any time of the day whatever situation we may be in.

I have been writing about the ICT industry since September 1994 and mostly went for assignments and media interviews then returned to by newspapers' office five days a week to write my stories and whilst I worked much longer that the regular 9 to 5, I still had some time for myself. Back then I had a mobile phone and e-mail but I still could have separate work and personal lives.

Then in May 2006, I joined a magazine and was allowed to work from home, which seemed cool at first but I soon found myself glued to the seat in front of the PC day and night, weekends and public holidays and had almost no time for any personal life.

It was only when I made the decision to become semi-retired at 60 that I now have more time to attend to long neglected personal matters such as tidying up my home and clearing out all the accumulated press releases, documents, premium door gifts and so forth which I had accumulated in my home over the years and I am still clearing things out or giving them away.

(And may I add here - many long-neglected matters related to my wider family circle)

In my first job as a process engineer with a semiconductor assembly plant in Senawang, Negeri Sembilan, we started work at 8.00 am and normally worked till around 7.00pm to get work finished and after that, I had time to myself until the next morning. Back then we worked a five and a half day week, with half day work on Saturdays. (That was in 1980 and my "initiation" ceremony soon after I joined was that I was gotten really drunk at my first dinner with colleagues)

I then joined a firm which was a contractor laying cables along the streets and underground for Telekom Malaysia (in Seremban and surrounding areas), and we worked the regular 9 to 5 plus half day on Saturday but whilst work was outdoors under the hot sun but I had plenty of time for myself after work hours. (How I remember going to the toddy (fermented coconut palm wine) shop with our mandore (foreman) Rayapan)

When I got a job as a computer service engineer (in 1982) , I had to commute to work in Kuala Lumpur from Petaling Jaya daily, including Saturdays and unlike my colleagues in other departments, we in the IT department worked way beyond normal work hours but still I had much more time for myself than when I started to work from home in 2006.

Thankfully, I never had a BlackBerry Messenger account nor WhatsApp or I would be working like my friend who has one eye on the smartphone and one eye on the road whilst driving and whilst having tea with me at night.

Whilst I am tech-savvy enough to operate any of these gee whiz devices (I have conducted product reviews of more smartphones than I can count) and can easily afford them, I have made the decision to stick to a basic feature phone which still serves me well, even though it is pretty obsolete by now.

The fact of the matter is that with fiercer competition and the need to cut costs, employers see these technologies as a means to get more done for less with fewer employees who are increasingly required to be able to do multiple tasks.

For example, in many media organisations, journalists and editors are not only expected to focus on their editorial duties but are also required to do marketing to try and get advertisements and advertorial deals as well.

Also, IT and telecommunications companies tout these technologies as a means for employers to get more with fewer employees, though many Malaysian companies in industries beside ICT and media have not yet embraced such technologies as much as the IT and telecommunications companies would like them to, since for them it would mean more devices and broadband subscriptions sold.

I am quite sure that if you got a job as a bank officer you would be able to work more regular hours and have more time for yourself and your family, even though you would still have to commute to and from work daily.

If you worked as marketing executive or manager who has to travel in line of work, you may have to fight through traffic more and return home later and yes, you may find yourself more stressed out.

If you want plenty of time to yourself then join the civil service.

So don't buy into the blatant lies the ICT industry and publications tell you about how ICT facilities enable you to have a "better work-life balance", since if you were unfortunate enough to work for a company which readily embraces such technologies, you could well find yourself working whilst sitting on the toilet.

That is one of the reasons why I - a computer service engineer and an award winning ICT journalist - dub myself "IT.Scheiss" (IT shit).

Meanwhile, my friend, a former fellow ICT writer who recently took VSS (voluntary separation scheme) by his publication, is trying to interest me in flying quad copters.


Ace Emerson's original article follows below.


Living in a big rat race and running on empty

by Ace Emerson FEATURE: If you live in 21st century Malaysia, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people grumble about how busy they are to the point that it has become an automatic reply when you ask anyone, “How have you been?”

Even the children today are busy. They are busy just trying to keep up with their schedule such as school, after-school classes, as well as extracurricular activities.

By the time they come home, these children are as exhausted as the grown-ups.

The expression “busy” today has been replaced by the word “tired”. Because that is actually what most of us feel like most of the time. Worn out. Mentally used up and physically sore.

If we had a choice, none of us would choose this any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam; it’s something that we are compelled to do.

Unfortunately, we got to work in order to meet our basic human needs which are shelter, food, love, and family.

Here’s a typical scenario:

While much of Malaysia is at home curled up in front of the TV or getting ready for bed, you're just stumbling out of the office to get into your car and face the drive home from work traffic.

Once home, you make yourself a hot cup of coffee to calm the nerves from driving so long, stuff some leftovers into your body, have a hot shower then finally collapse into bed beside your sleeping spouse.

Just as your head touches the pillow, the alarm rings. You crawl out of bed reluctantly and drag yourself to the shower, throw on a clean outfit, pour some coffee down your throat, maybe drop a kid or two at school, and jump back onto the frenetic work treadmill that you can't turn off.

We all work so hard, yet our wages are basically paying for nothing these days, and prices keep rising while the value of the ringgit keeps dropping. How can we ever catch up?

In today’s world of innovation and technology, shouldn't these modern inventions be making our lives a little better?

But no, most companies in this country still hold on to the "old" system of things, leaving our people to be continuously on the go and pretty much working themselves to death. Running as fast as they can but not going anywhere.

Our vehicles that have been taking us around accomplishing things in life have become our “home” away from home where we spend most of our time in.

The term “karoshi,” or death from overwork, gained notoriety in Japan several decades back when people in Japan used to die abruptly due to a stroke, heart attack, cerebral hemorrhage – basically, keeping up with the demands of their workplace.

Japan’s police agency mentioned more than 2,000 work-related suicides in 2013, as well as 10,000 deaths in 2009 involving lawyers which according to their statement, "May be due to overwork”.

“How can we afford not to work hard when everything is so costly these days, yet our income remains the same? We simply go day to day just trying to make it through until the next pay cheque. We can barely manage to pay rent, let alone owned our very own homes,” says 29-year-old Michelle Swee, an accountant.

And human resources manager Farid Sulaiman, 31, has the same routine day in day out.

“I go to work every day just to pay my bills, my rent, as well as my loans. I wake up at 6am Monday to Friday, fight the traffic at 7.30am to get to the office; then do it all over again once the clock turns 6pm. I get home at around 7.30-8pm every day. Every single day, the same thing. I no longer have a life, how can I? I’m exhausted all the time.”

As for 37-year-old Dev Shenka, it’s a robotic life.

“Sometimes I feel like we are a robot, going around routinely doing what I need to do just to get by until the day I retire or expire. But never going anywhere,” said the operational manager for an IT company.

For Lisa Ghani, 31, life is a rat race of endless and pointless pursuit.

“We are tired and we're being worked to death. Yet, we cannot escape that rat wheel or else we would lose our homes, health care, not to mention basic ability to buy food to eat,” said the 31-year-old marketing manager for a skincare company.

And because of this, we have become busy people. Always busy working and have no time for anything else, not even living. We are all running on empty.

So much so that we have become an angry, moody, easily irritated, and agitated nation due to our unbalanced stressful life.

Everyone is too busy looking out for themselves that they forget to live life. They forget how to be role models to their children. But how can we get out of the rat race that goes nowhere, with all the price hikes in basic necessities as well as everything else?

How can we ever go anywhere if we are too busy trying to make ends meet? With all the technology such as the Internet and smartphones that exist today, companies should really leave the “old” way of running things and embrace the new way of doing things with the help of the technologies that are readily available to us today because it can truly benefit both parties.

The employee won’t have to fight the traffic (spending time, energy, and money), and therefore is able to perform better.

The employer, meanwhile, saves energy (on air-conditioning, computer, lights etc.) as well as get a happier employee which translates to a loyal employee.

If every Malaysian made time to stop being busy every now and then, and take time to ponder on what they actually want to achieve in life, to appreciate and enjoy their families, friends, and respect each other’s differences as well as space, we may probably be a much more productive and caring nation as opposed to the bitter bully that we are today.

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