As you may well know, I’m not a developer. I don’t even come near being one. But Mint CEO Cameron Price told me about GitHub a few years ago, and I’m interested in the way it works as a remote platform for its employees: it’s a flexible working thing, and that all feeds into my interest in how technology enables us to work differently, the way we want to (see the Beach with Wifi blog for some examples). Continue reading →
A policeman took my name and address last Wednesday – my dog was barking at his horse, and I was on the phone. Usually I avoid calls when I’m walking the dog, precisely because you can’t concentrate on two things at once, but this was a work-related call, and I’d been trying to get hold of the person concerned, and I just thought I’d take two minutes “out” to deal with it.
So I was sat on a bench, engrossed in my call. I didn’t notice the crowd that had gathered round my “cute” dog. An old lady, a couple of mums with buggies, a few toddlers and children – and the policeman on his horse. My small Schnauzer was in the middle, terrified – barking blue murder at the lot of them.
A few years ago I saw a woman in a business suit crossing a tricky road while talking loudly on the phone. She had two small children with her, on scooters – also trying to cross the road. The combination of work + busy road + toddlers wasn’t good – but then she probably didn’t plan it that way.
We have the technology to work where we like – and that flexibility makes work a lot easier. But work and the “real” world don’t necessarily mix – all too often, unconsciously, we rely on strangers to look out for us.
After a while, my policeman softened. There’s been an increase in complaints about the behaviour of dogs in this area, he said – and a lot of dog owners are constantly on their phones. The situation is “out of control”, he said. He seemed genuinely despairing.
As businesses downsize and remote working becomes the norm, who’s really picking up the tab?
Note: Teleworkers are (still!) defined in the Collins English Dictionary as “people who work from home using equipment such as telephones, fax machines and modems”.
Ford favoured a shorter week (until then, six working days had been the norm) for purely commercial reasons. He was losing good employees, and found that a 40 hour week, worked in shifts, was the best way to optimise workers (who needed to be kept alert and motivated) with expensive machinery and power plants, which shouldn’t be left idle for too long.
Most of us in the developed world now live in a post-industrial age where knowledge-based products and services are replacing manufacturing. If your work can be completed over an internet or telephone connection, it’s less likely that you physically be in the office, or work specific hours. Yet we still rely on a way of working that was designed for the factory production line.