unemploument.jpgFriday’s unemployment figures reveal once again the grimness of the 2009 labor market. So how are organizations responding? By taking steps that, not too long ago, would have been unthinkable.

Consider IBM. According to Information Week, the company is offering its laid-off workers a fab deal: It will give them jobs . . . in emerging markets like India, China, or Brazil, where work is being offshored.

One company spokesperson, apparently speaking with a straight face, said the initiative is “a vehicle for people who want to expand their life experience by working somewhere else. A lot of people want to work in India.”

Meanwhile, NPR reports that the state of Utah has shifted its employees to a four-day work week. Most government offices are closed on Fridays, which Governor Jon Huntsman hopes will encourage citizens to access services online.

The bottom line: In a downturn, everything’s up for grabs. More generally, place and time lose a lot of their meaning in an outsourced, automated age.

7 Responses to “How jobs get reconfigured in a downturn”

  1. Dan, your words: “In a downturn everything is up for grabs,” suggests to me possibility.
    In medicine, if the heart is beating irregularly it’s shocked (cardioverted) so it can restart into a new rhythm once again. The “shock” of this economic crisis may be the cardioversion needed for many to be liberated from “the tyranny of dead ideas” (thanks Matt).
    Recall Sisyphus who was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to watch it roll down again for eternity—he would have jumped at the opportunity for a “best-worst experience” like a downturn to break the pattern.
    I once heard a wise man say to be successful, follow this acronym: TNT; Trends, Needs, Technology
    Where’s the TREND? Where‘s the NEED? Where‘s TECHNOLOGY headed?
    If you want a big opportunity, find a big problem—it may take a whole new mind…but everything is up for grabs.

  2. Tsuguo Nobe says:

    What will happen if every company globally shifts from 5-work-day a week to 4-work-day a week. It is a kind of work share, but worldwide demand is now shrinking to be met by that production level, at least for a while. GDP will be cut roughly by one fifth but it will enrich our daily life.

  3. Penina says:

    I’d say “India” with a straight face, too.

    My kid would be mortified to leave his friends, but I’m a sucker for new adventures. The cost of living there (even now) would allow me to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, explore yet another corner of the world and yes, ‘expand my life experience’.

  4. Bakari says:

    My first job as an assistant professor was at a college in Georgia that held classes M-Th. I do not know why the policy was originally adopted. However, it reduced travel costs for many employees and students, especially as gas neared $4 last year. Utility costs, money required for hourly employees and manpower needs were reduced as a result of this policy as well.

    I never complained.

  5. Candice says:

    Greetings. Yes, everything is up for grabs, but doesn’t that also mean great opportunities? For some, it may mean more books and fewer movies and popcorn; for others, it may mean more savings and less spending; for still others, it may mean a second but more interesting job than their regular job! No question that these are harder times than we are used to and that the times are not due to our choices. However, we are a versatile and creative people and perhaps having less of what we’re used to may mean more creative activities?

  6. Jena says:

    I think the idea of a 4 day work week would contribute in a positive way to our lives during the recession. Not only would it allow more time to get work done, job-hunt or take on new tasks, but it would cut down on travel costs and spending that takes place while out to work or even school. I wonder how and if this would affect schools and those in and about to graduate from college however, as there is much worry in that particular arena.

  7. Cindy Lyons says:

    Everyone thinks I am nuts, but I think American society really lost something with the repeal of the Blue Laws. Up until then, we had one day a week where you actually had time for your family. Sure, the grocery store was not open, so you shopped on Saturday. Big deal. People can still decide to make one day a week “sacred” for family time, but there is too may things competing for that time these days.

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