Y2K Fears Will Chain Many To Their Desks

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In spite of all the "happy face" spin, it's obvious that no one REALLY knows what's going to happen:

"Y2K fears will chain many to their desks"



USA Today

Traffic lights fail, elevators grind to a halt, power outages drape cities in darkness  all potential fallout from next New Year's computer glitches.

Worries about the Year 2000 threat, which could cause widespread computer failures, are prompting many employers to warn workers that vacations around New Year's Eve 1999 might be canceled.

For about 3,000 workers at Denver Health, a county health care system, that means no vacations from Dec. 29, 1999, through Jan. 31, 2000, because of the Y2K threat.

It's not going to sink in until August, spokeswoman Stephanie Denning said. Then I'm sure there'll be lots of grumbling.

Western Union, with locations around the world, will have employees at all management levels working. The company is considering renting blocs of hotel rooms for some who might work overnight.

At Indianapolis Power and Light, all of the roughly 2,000 employees have been told they can't take vacation in December 1999 or January 2000.

I've been telling all my friends where I'll be having my New Year's celebration, Marni Lemons said at the utility. I'll be on duty.

Nurses, factory foremen, bank supervisors, police officers, utility workers, parts suppliers and a host of others are realizing that the worries about the Y2K bug will affect them  even when it comes to taking time off.

Half of respondents in a survey think the Y2K issue will negatively affect them at work. That's based on an online poll of 1,700 visitors to the Everything 2000 Web site, a chronicle of issues related to the new year and Y2K. And almost 20 percent already know they'll have company restrictions on vacation.

Word is already out among city employees in Denver that essential personnel could see vacations canceled. The mayor issued an executive order to that effect, even though efforts have been under way since 1996 to correct Y2K problems. City workers will be standing by if traffic lights fail, elevators get stuck, automatic doors slam shut, or other mishaps occur.

We're going to be on full alert, mayoral spokesman Andrew Hudson said.

How employees will be affected depends on how spooked individual employers are by Y2K issues. The Year 2000 computer bug arises from computer codes that can't comprehend dates beyond 1999.

Doomsayers fear the worst. Failures could strike medical equipment, automated tellers, traffic signals, 911 systems, financial transactions, power systems and more.

The hope is that companies and governments, scrambling to make system changes, are successful, problems are minor, and the kinks work themselves out. But faced with the unknown, employers are marshaling their troops.

Banc One is making plans. Wells Fargo will have staffers at the ready.

And some hotel chains are planning early for guests looking to work instead of party. The Millenium Hilton in New York is offering a Millennium Bug package  complete with coffee, aspirin and pen and paper in case of computer meltdowns  for those on Wall Street or at the nearby World Trade Center stuck working around New Year's Eve.

Other examples:

 Hundreds of employees for the Federal Reserve have gotten the word from supervisors that they may spend New Year's in the office.

Managers, regulators, computer experts and public affairs officers all are affected.

We don't know exactly who will be here, but everybody's been put on alert that they could be working that weekend, spokeswoman Rose Pianalto said. Everybody knows they could be putting in a lot of overtime.

 Ford Motor Co. is identifying those employees who will have to be in place. We will have some folks on standby and some people in the plants on standby, spokesman George Surdu said.

 At General Motors, contingency teams will be ready in case of trouble. That may include alternative suppliers as well as employees in manufacturing, production, engineering and technology.

We'll have SWAT teams ready, spokesman John Ahearne said. If something occurs in a factory, they're there to be sure things are working.

And those employees in the office might find that work is no party. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA), in an alert released this month, warns that many employees should prepare for potential mishaps, such as ringing fire alarms and malfunctioning heating units.

It even suggested that employers consider installing chemical toilets in case utilities shut down and providing brown-bag lunches if food service operations fail.

But those likely to put up with the most headaches will be employees with technology skills.

At MarketSwitch, a Herndon, Va.-based maker of financial services software, employees will be ringing in the new year at their desks.

We'll make sure we have absolute coverage, said Drew Eginton, president and chief executive officer. I'll be sitting in the same chair I am now. A lot of people will be very, very eager to see New Year's over.


-- Gayla Dunbar (privacy@please.com), January 31, 1999


I assume some of the people that are to be "chained to their desks" have already started making preparations. How many of these folks do not plan to be near their job on Jan 1/2000? If the days leading up to Christmas are filled with very bad news, some of the key players to fix problems may by AWOL.

-- Rick Reilly (rreilly@home.com), January 31, 1999.

Rick -

good point. In fact even if there aren't any major disasters prior to the roll over I would expect a large number of corporate and governmental organizations to discover that many of their employees do NOT place as much value on their job as they do on their family members.

Funny how that works, isn't it?


-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), January 31, 1999.

i WORK IN A LARGE SUPERMARKET, IN ATOWN OF ABOUT 130000. i KNOW its gonna get ugly. when it gets bad enough, I will use the exit. when I see everything disappearing, I will grab what I can, and become a customer, no longer an employee.

-- ed (edrider007@aol.com), February 01, 1999.

You might want to start a little sooner than that, Ed.

-- Vic (Roadrunner@compliant.com), February 01, 1999.

It seems very likely to me that long before December 1999 folks will know whether or not things are coming unglued and if their job is worth taking the risk of being away from home. I don't think anyone will have a problem making that choice when the time comes.

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), February 01, 1999.

People refusing to man their desks? Don't you suppose "they" will have thought of that already? Those little wheels must already be spinning in certain heads.

-- Really (paranoid@no.where), February 01, 1999.

A relative of mine is working on a Y2K project. He has been told that he is expected to spend the rollover on the job.

-- me (justme@aol.com), February 01, 1999.

My company (Household International) justed announced that all IT staff will not be able to take any vacation time between November 1, 1999 and January 21, 2000. Guess who will be working a new job by then....

-- Lurker (lurker@eye.spy), February 02, 1999.

Companies can place all the policies they want and an employee can honor those policies or not. Maybe his job is at risk if he choose to ignore those policies, maybe not. But when 1/1/00 rolls around, an employee can decide what's best for his particular situation. If problems occur and employees are not there to fix them, then this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. How can power be turned back on if all employees are at home "protecting" their families? People need to help in time or crisis or we are all doomed not because of any technical failure but because of panic.

-- Another comment (just@interested.com), February 02, 1999.

"Another comment" -

I noticed that you had to put the word "protecting" in quotes in order to make our point. If one's family is at risk, heading in to work is simply not an option.

The only solution for what you call "panic" is preparation, and it is lack of preparation that creates the problem. These folks are concerned precisely because the local Powers-That-Be are not actively demonstrating that they will be prepared, and thus able to protect the families. Until the local entities can demonstrate that they "Get It" and have adequate contingencies in place, few folks will be willing to just head off to work and "save the world."

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.com), February 02, 1999.

Ill draw an analogy to disaster situations, even though we know that Y2K will not present itself in this manner.

When a winter storm or hurricane hits, emergency people go into action. Hospital, power plant, and other emergency crews are prepared to act. The same is true for the military and police when a crisis comes up. They may consider their families are at risk at times but they have a job to do, for lives depend on them. They prepare their families for these situations and I assume their families understand that they are needed elsewhere. If they dont like the job and all of its implications they are free to find another line of work. The job offers them satisfaction in ways that others may not understand.

Now companies are beginning to instate policies that will require employee presence. They still have a choice. If they remain (loyalty, obligation, additional compensation, for whatever reason), they must consider all its implications. I am assuming that these essential employees make the appropriate personal arrangements for their families for problems arising from power outages, food and water shortages. Why do these folks need a get it demonstration from local entities to head off to work to save the world? Whether local entities get it or not should not matter to them. (I think it best for these employees to act as if local entities dont get it and depend only on themselves for the uncertainties of Y2K). If they have agreed to support their employer through the new year, then they ought to honor that promise and make their personal preparations to follow through.

My employer has not asked me to be available on 1/1/00 but if he does, I will be there. I have preparations at home. Im confident my family will be taken care of. If transportation is a problem, I have my own two legs. I dont want to compound the problem by refusing to help.

Back to my first statement. I believe that Y2K problems will be small at first and then grow. We will not see all the effects of Y2K for weeks or months.

-- Another comment (just@interested.com), February 02, 1999.

Well said.

My point about "local entities" is that their preparation reduces the need for individuals to make additional preparations, e.g., knowing that police are available reduces concern for the family's physical safety. Is your company encouraging critical employees to make personal preparations? This would seem a prudent measure for them to take in order to ensure that everyone who's needed shows up.

You state: "I have preparations at home. Im confident my family will be taken care of." My point exactly. You are confident and will therefore go to work based on that confidence. How many companies are encouraging their employees to prepare and share that confidence?

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.com), February 02, 1999.

Mac, thanks. I guess I'm a different breed. I've been through too much in my life and disappointed when I relied on others. I've learned to only depend on myself in all situations.

Unfortunately, I don't think companies will encourage employees to prepare. It would be a good idea. Further, my company hasn't requested anyone to work through the new year, yet, but I suspect it's coming.

-- Another comment (just@interested.com), February 02, 1999.

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