Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Getting There: Train

‘Getting There’ is a series of office tips about your commute into (and more importantly away from) the Plankton offices.

Train travel gives commuters the opportunity to relax. While on the train you can listen to music, read a book or play video games. Of course, many people do all these things while driving, but that takes a special skill. To properly “relax on the tracks” you will need to know how to ignore any workmates who might also catch the same train and who invariably want to talk about work. Simply holding up a sign saying “I get paid to talk to you, and I am not getting paid now” is effective but rude. Instead, from the moment you leave the office look directly down and never ever make eye contact with anyone until you get home.

The downside to catching the train is that you are completely at the whim of the megalomaniacal public transport companies who proudly announce that 84% of their services ran in the last month rather than sheepishly apologise that 16% didn’t due to slightly inclement weather. Trains will also stop for no apparent reason just outside the station and stationmasters will alter the timetable at the last minute just to watch the fat people run to the other platform.

The advantage of the timetable, however, is that it’s something that all company drones seem to understand. If you say to a colleague “I’m sorry I have to go or I’ll miss my train” they will say “OK, you better run”. However if you say “No, I don’t have time to look at the major problem that you could have shown me at any time, but have only just decided to show me at 4:58pm, because I have to drive home to a family that is expecting me” you will get the reply “You’re driving? You can hang around for five minutes.”

And it is never five minutes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“Working” from home

Many people think that working from home doesn’t really involve work at all. With no bosses around, and with a wide selection of daytime TV, you are free to do anything and no one but the Danoz Direct call centre will be any the wiser. The reality, though, is almost exactly the opposite.

When in the office, most workers will try their hardest to do as little work as possible. Everyone can press “alt-tab” with the agility of a ninja and internet logs can be hacked so that no one knows you visit Lady Gaga’s website. Games are installed with “boss” keys, which show something work related when someone is near. (Unfortunately, “work related” is only a spotty game developer’s guess at what real work looks like, which is invariably an out of date spreadsheet of completely irrelevant data. This will only cause your boss to grumpily ask “Why are you spending your time looking at an out of date spreadsheet of completely irrelevant data?”)

However when working from home people are acutely aware that no one is looking over their shoulder and that when they next turn up to work their output will be scrutinised. This knowledge sends most people into a guilty frenzy which means they produce more in four hours at home than they would in two weeks at the office.

Management conferences have whole seminar streams based on this concept of “Productivity Through Guilt” or PTG. This is why, despite the obvious productivity gains, managers must seem reluctant to allow people to work from home. PTG is only effective when sitting on your back verandah with a glass of wine, a laptop and no pants is seen as a privilege that you don’t deserve and that might be snatched away at any time, rather than a right.