Office WOrkers Find Today's Jobs Are Getting Both Better and Worse

Article excerpt

NEW YORK _ Wanted: executive secretary. Must be able to type 80 wpm, have good phone manner and a talent for organization.

There was a time not long ago when such basic skills were all it took to land a job as an office worker. Typing, filing and answering phones were often all that was required. But the do-more-with-less, technology-dominated and recession-driven decade of the 1990s has done away with that.

Today's office workers need to be computer-literate, technology-conscious and able to handle management-level responsibilities.

Sylvia Jo Oglesby, who's been working in offices for the past 39 years, has witnessed the change first-hand.

"I've had to do more of the things my boss would do," said Oglesby, 56, who works for the Better Boys Foundation in Chicago. "I do all the secretarial-clerical things, but I also have to run an office and make decisions for when he isn't here _ I even do that when he is here!"

Oglesby is one of the more than 18 million Americans _ mostly women _ who make up the nation's administrative and clerical workforce. Corporate downsizing has brought these workers higher levels of responsibility and generally more interesting jobs.

But the news isn't all good. For a large number of the nation's office workers, the 1990s have been an unhappy time.

Ellen Bravo, executive director of 9to5, an advocacy group for working women, says many companies have turned the office into an "electronic sweatshop, where everything you do is timed and counted, where how many keystrokes you do an hour becomes a determinant of your pay."

For workers at such companies, particularly those in fields like data entry, office work has become monotonous and unfulfilling.

"Computers and communications have allowed us to do a lot of things that we never did before," said Audrey Freedman, president of Audrey Freedman Associates, a management consulting firm. …

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