Friendly Letter Carriers Remain But Casual Chats With Postmen and Women Are Out

Posted on April 16, 2011


Future Letter Carrier?

Twenty years ago I accepted a position in a large pharmaceutical company because I liked the work and the corporate atmosphere.  It was laid back and “human” in feel.  Only a few months later, the end came in the form of the hired efficiency experts.  We filled out questionnaires about our every move from the desk to the bathroom; from the desk to the cafeteria and back again.  Management was simply trying to evaluate both the position and me in it.  It increased the pressure and the stakes for my success.

Now this same “feeling” has crept into a major part of life in my village.  Letter carriers are now being closely monitored electronically and no doubt will  be replaced by robots  someday soon when it is determined that humans cannot function as robots.

Our letter carrier, Vanessa, confidante of all on her route  and treat machine to village dogs has had her world and ours turned upside down. She sadly told us last week that new efficiencies will be introduced that will further reduce the few minutes of visiting we share with her each day.  She will know less about us and we about her.

It was Vanessa who told me a former student boarder of mine had died in a car crash.  I welcomed the fact that I had heard it from a friend. And it was Vanessa that saved the life of a resident she did not see at her regular time and was later found having collapsed in her  home.

The post office is placing bar codes on key residential boxes so that letter carriers may scan them with devices they will have issued to them.  They will also be given amounts of mail equal to each other.  The “data” collected will then let the Postmaster know what carriers and what routes are working well within system guidelines.

I thought about it for a time and then realized the amount of pressure on the Post Office to remain profitable in these difficult times.  Like Vanessa, I also work beyond the confines of a traditional office.  I work from home in a so-called casual atmosphere.  Management has to have some method of ensuring that we are in fact where we should be doing what is our assigned role when we should be.

I interface with my company’s customers over the phone for most minutes out of a 5-hour shift.  I have a “virtual” desktop that includes a virtual phone.  It functions like a regular phone with the addition of an ability to track what you are doing, where and how fast.  Quality is assured through call monitoring and customer feedback available after each call.

If I want to call a customer back, I need to go into “auxiliary mode” and then enter a number corresponding to my current activity.  If I am calling back a customer, I need to enter a 1 on the phone’s keypad; going on break or dinner is 2, tutoring with a leader is 5 and help desk calls is 7.  In order to go engage in each of these activities, I need to “ping” a special office and let them know by instant message when I leave and when I return from lunch or tutoring or a help desk call.

A company that allowed home workers the privilege of doing their work at their own pace and  during their own hours would soon lose customers and be out of business.  If supervisors don’t know how many people are taking calls at a certain time then they cannot move them to areas where telephone service is in need of more people.  Customers should not have long wait times on the phone.

Similarly, there are many positive aspects of working as a Postal worker under the new procedures.  Fairness in doling out work loads will be instituted and the Post Office will better know how to configure routes.

It may seem as if “big brother is watching” but he does not have a negative outcome for you in mind.  “A large chunk of a human flavor in workplace scenarios will be repressed or eliminated.  Chats with Vanessa that made our days will be briefer or non-existent.  But where there is a will – there is a work around.  In good weather, we will walk with Vanessa!  We are determined.

But will we develop the same relationship with the next carrier?  It’s doubtful.  Time in which to do so has been eliminated.  I hope I don’t live to see the day when all of my friends are merely virtual friends.

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