Commuting a life sentence Part 2

All our yesterdays

Empty Rails - Jon Stow

It is almost ten years since I was an employee with a large firm, and at the time they were just thinking about the concept of hot-desking. I must admit I did not like the thought of not having my own space in the office, and having to scramble for one when I got to work.

I believe that we do need our own little workspace or territory and it needs to be a certain size. In my last job, the desks were so crammed together we could hardly move, and they had tried to alleviate the problem by having partitions around four feet high. I felt really hemmed in and uncomfortable in that environment. I was adequately compensated in financial terms up to the point I was included in their indiscriminate staff cuts, but I cannot say that the office environment was pleasant or conducive to allowing concentration on quite technical matters.

Behind the times

Hot-desking twenty years after the concept was thought of seems out-dated, but some of the big City corporates seem to think it is a really good idea, even for their senior staff. I would think it would be a real downer for morale because people are by nature territorial. Of course the idea is to save office space since not all office workers will be in at the same time. I think it could be costly in terms of production due to disaffection of the employees.

Well, you might argue, in the modern age we can work anywhere we wish. That is true in a sense. I take my netbook out and about and I have worked in cafes and hospital waiting rooms in the last few months. It is fine to work on the fly, but I have my own office back at base. Hot-desker employees do not have that refuge or nest to return to.

There is a problem in thinking with senior management, and especially those worried about security. We know that hackers can get into most systems eventually, but surely security could be good enough to allow most office-types to operate from their homes? That way they could have their own territory, feel less oppressed when they did need to go into the office to hot-desk, and they could save on their commuting costs. Need a meeting? We have VOIP and video conferencing. Have they seen the adverts?

Fat controllers

The problem is in management-think. There are many who do not trust even their most senior staff and best workers to apply themselves when out of sight of their boss. This reminds me of the old Bristow cartoons by Frank Dickens which ran for many years in the London Evening Standard. Bristow the buying clerk had a fearsome boss called Fudge who used to tower over Bristow and yell “Get on with your work”. It is precisely that attitude of control-freakery which still seems to reign and which is holding big business back, and requiring unnecessary commuting.

Employees work better when they are trusted and respect their managers. As long as there is good communication there should be no problem. I would have thought that providing more facilities for employees to work from home would more than satisfy the cost-cutting requirements without making the employees uncomfortable as they will be with a daily fight for a “nice” desk in the office.

Goodbye to All That

It might take ten or twenty years, but I believe the days of the daily commute for the majority of office workers are numbered. It is time that big corporates realized what we small business people already know: working from home or from your own chosen office or workspace makes you a lot happier, and also more efficient. How do you see this?

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  1. In a “previous life” I worked for a company that allowed me to develop software at home. It was the ideal environment. I had no interruptions and I was so comfortable that it allowed me to be involved in my work to a degree that my entire focus was on the progress of getting software modules done and I usually put in longer hours than I would have commuting to the office, working a full day and commuting back home. A very rewarding way for a goal-oriented person to work. I am now in another occupation where I have to be on site all the time, but it is my own business so fortunately it feels the same way to me.

  2. Yes, Gail, we can do a serious amount of work at home without interruption. There is nothing like having your own business, though. It’s good to hear you enjoy it. Thank you very much for your input.

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