Internet access for staff in Antarctica creates problems for HR

Workers stationed in Antarctica are giving British Antarctic Survey HR staff snow end of problems now they have been hooked up to the internet – they are talking to each other less, getting more homesick and demanding delivery of items bought online.

The scientific research firm, which has its headquarters in the UK, has between 50 and 250 members of staff based on the desolate continent at any one time, as it tracks issues such as climate change and ocean exploitation.

It can be a hostile working environment, but head of personnel Fiona Brazil revealed that the introduction of modern technology to the isolated base had been a “poisoned chalice”.

“The social dynamic is changing out there because of the increased use of e-mail, web cameras, internet chat rooms and online shopping,” she told delegates at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development annual conference this week.

“We are finding people are going to the common room to socialise less and spending more time on the internet. It has been quite interesting. One member of staff got increasingly upset about being away because he was always talking to his girlfriend online.

“They have also discovered internet shopping, and are ordering things to be sent to the nearby Falkland Islands. Then they are complaining that we can’t ship this stuff to them immediately.”

Brazil also revealed she had spent a night stranded in a tent in a snow storm with a disgruntled employee raising grievances over pay.

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