New Toys for 'Big Brother'

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Employers are using computers and other electronic gadgets as "technological whips" to keep their workers in line, maintains 9 to 5, Working Women Education Fund.

The workers' rights group cited "bugs" to eavesdrop on telephone conversations, gadgets to count computer keystrokes and devices that gauge how much time workers spend on transactions.

Employers, on the other hand, contend that electronic surveillance is merely an extension of traditional supervision.

"Employee monitoring is a necessary tool for employers to review work progress," says Roger Middleton, an attorney for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It's also used for training workers and helping to determine whom to promote for good performance. And hidden video cameras enhance security functions, Middleton adds.

Sharon Danann, research director for 9 to 5, agrees that some monitoring is acceptable but says managers rely too heavily on it in assessing workers. "Supervisors seem to go berserk with this stuff," she says. "It becomes an overboard effort at control."

Keeping Time With Gorbachev

Marking the era of glasnost is Thousand Oaks company Punch Line with a Mikhail S. Gorbachev watch.

The limited-edition watch, with a peace dove marking the seconds, will sell for $39.95. It goes on sale in a few weeks.

Not far behind is a George Bush watch due out in April, says Marc Schlechter, president of the 1 1/2-year-old firm.

Befitting an era of global cooperation, the watches are assembled in Hong Kong. The company also does test marketing in New Zealand, Bermuda and Holland.

Incidentally, the dove watch is just one item of Gorbachev gear about to reach retailers. Another: Milton Bradley's Gorbachev board game.

Players track down "what every true Russian longs for"--American jeans, Japanese cameras, French perfumes. And Gorbachev helps the players in their quest by cutting through "mountains of red tape."

And, finally, Gorky's Cafe and Brewery in Hollywood is now serving up the "Gorby-cue," an oriental stir-fry, with a touch of Russian. To go with the Gorby-cue, the cafe has "Gorbachips," corn not potato.

Power Lunch Hard to Swallow

The end of the '80s may also mean an end to so-called power lunches, according to a report from the Socio-Economic Research Institute of America.

"Power lunches are not powerful, they're detrimental," the trend-watching institute says. "The digestive process does not work properly and efficiently when one eats in a stressful, anxiety-producing environment. People are realizing the derived benefits of eating nourishing foods in pleasant, non-stressful environments."

The institute also notes that telecommunications and technological breakthroughs will allow independent-thinking Baby Boomers to set up shop where they please while remaining plugged into the mainstream. "And they will be working to fulfill their long-term needs and values--health, happiness and well-being--rather than the short-term earnings goals that were virtually epidemic in corporate America during the '80s."

The findings of the institute, which is based in Rhinebeck, N.Y., will be published in a book due out in May.

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