One of the wonderful benefits of any global company is the productivity achieved by having a continuous work force. As one group of employees in the US go home, another set in India begins its day. It’s an oversimplification for sure, but I have no doubt that global companies gain real productivity.
Here’s an example of real productivity. It is now Sunday night on April 17, about 11:35 PM in my local time zone. I’ve just responded to an email that’s been in my INBOX over the weekend. Fortunately, even though it’s late for me, and I’m really, really exhausted, my colleague in India is fresh and perhaps just going for his lunch break on Monday afternoon. He can take my email response and act upon it. The contents of the email provide a helpful tip for fixing a unit test. The end result is that the corporate product — the software in this case — has continuous nurturing, updates, and improvements.
The problem is at the micro level, however. While the larger company product benefits, sometimes individuals that work in that environment burn out. I’m no where near that, but I can see a pattern evolving that could lead to that. You see, for me, the work day never ends. Somewhere in the world, someone is working on a problem that I am also working on. Ideally, the handoff would be a clearly distinguished time. That is, I might get an email in the morning, work on the issue, then respond before my end of day. Then my colleague in India would awake (and I’d be asleep), and then he would continue working.
In reality, however, the actual work day never really ends for some of these people. For example, I stay up late to get a real-time response back. Or I might use an instant messenger tool to get an immediate response from a colleague around the world. This continues for several weeks until finally someone gets ill and has to take a few days extra rest. At the micro level — at the real person level — around-the-clock work is not a good thing. It takes its toll on energy level, family interactions, and even health.
In the end, I still think a company can benefit from a global workforce. However, individuals must be disciplined to let one shift end and another begin without feeling the need to constantly communicate in real time. In a global workforce, asynchronous email is a great thing. I have to remind myself of that regularly. Like now. Time for bed. No more work for me. Good night India.