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“work related” is only a spotty game developer’s guess at what real work looks like, which is invariably an out of date spreadsheet of completely irrelevant data. This will only cause your boss to grumpily ask “Why are you spending your time looking at an out of date spreadsheet of completely irrelevant data?”)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.

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