Look through your LinkedIn feed any day of any week and you’ll find a discussion about homeworking. An enlightened manager will be lauded as a visionary for letting a team work from home for some of the week, and somewhere in the thread there’ll be a comment and the word ‘trust’ will come up.
Managers love discussing how much they can trust people who need to work even when they aren’t being watched. To me, this creates a picture in my head of a workhouse or a typing-pool: rows of people, head down and beavering away in silence. Throw an unused ping-pong table into the picture and you’ve got a modern-era open plan office.
Ask any field sales person what it feels like to be trusted to work from home and they’ll look you in the eye to see if your pupils are dilated. No-one doubts these guys do the work.
Companies know that people are motivated to work, to have purpose, to feel useful and to contribute value. But they still struggle to let them work from flexible locations, at flexible times.
They say, ‘Oh, we need to know when you’re available so you can interact.’ But staff know that too and if they need to be at a meeting or exchange ideas some other way, they’ll do it. There’s a strong body of evidence to support this theory: it’s called self-employment.
Companies today send representatives to networking meetings across the globe. At every gathering, the same complaints ring out: ‘there’s a chronic skills shortage,’ ‘we just can’t get qualified staff.’
No shit – really?
What – after decades of squeezing people into organisational structures that glorify the top end of the hierarchy, they’ve decided they’d rather work from home. Why do we wonder why they’d rather work with each other and without the need for an HR policy to manage corporate discrimination of various kinds?
And now they won’t come and work for a company? Go figure!
Let’s not blame it all on companies though. Governments have played their part. Layer in tax on benefits and take away vocational skills training from schools and it’s no surprise that kids aren’t flocking to be engineers, joiners or have an interest in manual skills. Television has done more to attract young people into cooking and the catering trade than high school learning options.
Fail to train kids in coding and digital skills, and they’ll go and learn ‘clean’ skills themselves from YouTube. Institutions like the Open University are struggling to find a new way forward when the whole world can learn to expert level without ever signing up to a course. Ironically, bricks and mortar universities have stolen a share of the market the OU used to dominate, simply by seeing that ‘digital’ and ‘distance’ are easy ways of encouraging people to join their course instead.
But I can hear you ask, isn’t that homeworking? Yup. Young and old working away to achieve a degree from a position of self-motivation. I wonder where that’ll fit into the workplace?
Written while working from home, 06.44, 23rd April, 2019.
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