The Loneliness of the Late Shift IT Worker

The Loneliness of the Late Shift IT Worker


Today we are not alone, we have the great social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and we have thousands of “friends”. Well, this is not true; I think that we are more alone than ever.

Last millennium and last century (1997- 1999), as an exploration geophysicist I spent a few years on seismic vessels, trying to discover the elusive oil hidden under the sea.

We worked on the five weeks on – five weeks off deal, twelve hours shift, no weekends and after that five weeks of holiday. I was lucky working together with my wife so we had our five weeks breaks together.

A lot of our colleagues were young, in their mid-twenties. The pay was good, they learned very quickly that swearing is an important part of the crew vocabulary and then they went home for the five weeks break. Now, all their friends and family were working during the week. These young guys spent their days drinking, mainly alone, because their social skills were kind of limited too, and after a few years spent working on the boat, they slowly became social rejects.

We left that job, mainly because we had enough of jumping from little shitty plains to little shitty helicopters every five weeks.

Early 2000 I started my IT career as a UNIX administrator. For several years I built a few hundred UNIX and Linux servers in Sydney, Melbourne, Seoul (South Korea), Wellington (NZ), just to mention a few cities benefiting of my skills as ‘Ilie the server builder’. After a while, I was so good (and bored!) building servers that was enough just to look angry at a server and the operating system will install by itself, the network ports will auto-configure and the root password will be off course: GOD!

When you do IT support for a major bank and the year is 2000, you have to physically be in their data centre for any change, upgrade, build etc. let’s not forget that the approved change window for Prod environment was normally Sunday morning from 00:00 am to 4:00 am. It was a very wired feeling to be alone in that huge data centre, the only other people being the two fat security guards at the reception. I will always remember the humming noise made by all those hundreds of servers, it was like you were listening to the “ghost in the machine”, or to the UNIX God!

In 1997, while in Houston, Texas for 6 months of training for the exploration geophysicist job, I started jogging influenced by one of my colleagues, Roberto, the Italian from Perth. In a few months I was jogging 9 miles every morning and enjoying it a lot. I kept that habit for many years everywhere we went.

So, for a few years I combined the loneliness of an IT support guy with the loneliness of the long distance jogger and, for reasons known only by me, I liked the second one better!

Today, the IT support area is totally changed, remote connectivity is getting better every day, virtualization, cloud computing and mobility are evolving at a frightening pace so the support guy role can be done almost 100% remotely, the approved change windows are more relaxed. Yes, you can perform your change from home using your laptop, yes you are not physically in a data centre and yes you are still alone!

Unlike the long distance runner, who has the forest, the park, the beach, the sky and the sea, an IT “runner” was alone in a data centre and is alone is his own home. I believe that the IT companies badly neglected this very important aspect of their employees’ social life.

In order to heal that IT induced loneliness and stress, the companies should start by acknowledging this issue and by looking at ways of fixing it. It has to be done professionally; picnics and barbecues will not do. My suggestion is to have a team of work psychologists, together with the HR and the IT guys coming up with a proper solution. No, I do not know the solution, I wish I did… I only work here!





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For us, maturity and ageing mean less mobility. Paradoxically, for Information Technology, maturity means more mobility.

Considering that the tablet market did not exist in 2010, and today there are millions of tablets used for work, the transformation is spectacular and it is happening at a very fast pace. But the tablet market is just the tip of the mobility iceberg. Underneath there are: cloud computing, mobile applications, mobile health, mobile payments, social media, mobile collaboration and wireless technologies.

Because the innovation rate in cloud computing, social platforms software and mobile devices is faster than the enterprise adaptation rate, the IT compartments have to adapt to the new reality or will become irrelevant.

If a company decides to implement the bring your own device (BOYD) policy, it will have an integrated input from the users, business units, human resources, legal, developers, network and security. If the focus will be only on security and the company decides to use server-hosted virtual desktop (SHVD) technology, meaning that the data is not kept on the mobile device, it is possible that this solution will make the user experience worse, reducing productivity and also increasing the wireless LAN dependency with a possible need for network upgrade.

When a company will decide to move toward an enterprise mobility solution there will be tradeoffs and compromises in the following area: Network Dependency, Security Risk, Dev/Support Cost, User Experience and Support/Management Cost.

For the mobile solution it is strongly recommended to use an enterprise architectural methodology like TOGAF which provides the company and the IT with a framework integrating all the major issues and interdependencies.

The Enterprise Architect team will have representatives from HR, legal, business, IT and users. Such a methodology like TOGAF (I am a certified TOGAF practitioner!) will help create a cyclic solution which reiterates among the interdependent tradeoffs in order to fine tune and refine the mobile architecture solution. The final goal of a mobile solution will be to achieve the protection of sensitive data of the enterprise regardless of the type of the mobile device or the owner of that device and that is called endpoint independence.



Introducing an enterprise mobility solution will dramatically change the definitions of work place, working hours, office hours because being mobile, work flexibility is not an option, but a necessity. The users will integrate their personal and professional information on the mobile device and the expectation is that the new mobile applications will allow users to access the company data at any time, on any device, anywhere.

A mobility solution will require investment in mobile infrastructure like: Wi-Fi access points (Aps), distributed antenna systems (DASs) and SHVD. On top of that you need system management tools in order to monitor, diagnose and mitigate issues.

A major factor to consider with a mobility solution is security. On top of “traditional” security issues like malicious software and device theft, mobility adds new issues like: endpoint ownership, no dominant operating system and very short device life cycle. The IT department has to define how user authenticate from mobile devices. On option is the use of mobile device management (MDM) software.


10 Specific Benefits of Instituting Enterprise Mobility ( )

Steve Bynghall, a researcher at the Digital Workplace Group, outlines the ten specific advantages that he sees resulting from enterprise mobility:


1 Portability – Extend digital communication and capability to all employees, leading to engagement

2 Availability – Increase productivity and deliver critical operational information in real time

3 Sharing – Enhance customer service and encourage knowledge transfer and learning

4 Access data in context – Access critical knowledge to provide better customer service and enhance productivity

5 Capture data in real time – Access business intelligence in real time and achieve better productivity through process involvement

6 Improved user experience – Better engagement and higher adoption among your workforce

7 Personal ownership of devices – Reduce costs and increase adoption and engagement

8 System independence – Gain process efficiency and reduce costs

9 Geolocation – Improve the process and enhance productivity

10 In-built camera – Scan data and record video and photos for knowledge sharing for improved processes and enhanced productivity