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Working from home

I have noticed several times over the recent snowy weather that working from home seems to be used as a euphemism for taking a day off.   I also note that there have been the usual blanket annoucements that the country has lost X billion pounds because some people have not gone to work.

This makes me a bit grumpy.  No doubt there are lots of people who have seized on an excuse to take a day off. And there are people who cannot do their work if they aren't in a specific place.  And there are people whose jobs are very linear and cannot make up the work not done one day the next, or by working faster.  There are even people whose work is really urgent and important, though my own feeling is that there aren't half as many of those, as people who would like to think of themselves as important...

I work from home all the time. You can get quite a lot done working from home.  Often you can get more done, because offices often aren't very good places to actually do work, filled as they are with people wanting a chat, people creating a drama, people wanting advice and technical support, gossipping, procrastinating, making coffee, relocating furniture,  sharing rude videos...

I am very dubious that the country loses £billions because some people didn't make it to work for a couple of days.  If they walked through the snow, fell over and broke a leg, would that not put them out of work for much longer, not to mention making extra hassle for the emergency services guys whose work really is genuinely important?   

Plus, school closures.  Why on earth not...?  It's not like a couple of days off school is going to imperil anyone's entire education, whereas given that we don't get snow that often, surely there's an argument that allowing children to experience will in itself be a learning experience: probably a more enriching and useful one than double geography.  

Old people's services. Surely when everything is covered in ice, putting off the Old People's Tea for a couple of days is not a failure, but a sensible measure to prevent piles of damaged pensioners building up on the pavements?

It's OK to work not in a workplace.  Actually, I think it's OK to slack for a day and then work really hard the next day: if you have that sort of job then probably that happens whereever you do it anyway. Working and learning doesn't only happen in schools and offices, or when specially organised! 

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
bunn
5th Feb, 2009 13:54 (UTC)
Personally I find I have some days when I can get loads done, and some when everything just seems to take forever and nothing really 'clicks'. I almost never have days that neatly fit into a 9-5 routine with just enough work to fill the time efficiently with none over.

To start with when I was working for myself, this made me feel very guilty if I worked less hours, and oppressed if I worked more, but I've now accepted that this is pointless: some days I work into the evening, some days I start at 12 and finish at 3pm. As long as everything gets done, more or less, who cares!
(Deleted comment)
philmophlegm
5th Feb, 2009 15:11 (UTC)
I remember seeing an interview with John Madden once, talking about when he was the Oakland Raiders' head coach in the 70s. At a time when most NFL teams were all about discipline and following the rules, the Raiders were the exact opposite - but were very successful.

Madden said that he only had three rules for his players:

1. Be on time.

2. Pay attention.

3. Play like hell when I tell you to.

I think that philosophy works in many workplaces.
philmophlegm
5th Feb, 2009 13:47 (UTC)
I was thinking I'd work from home tomorrow.
bunn
5th Feb, 2009 13:50 (UTC)
The Milklady has just brought Friday's milk. She says she thinks it may be too icy to get through the village tomorrow.
philmophlegm
6th Feb, 2009 09:03 (UTC)
And obviously that turned out to be a good idea because we're snowed in today.
rustica
5th Feb, 2009 14:58 (UTC)
A couple of reasons spring to mind about working from home. Firstly, bosses don't trust their employees to *work* from home. Secondly, they lack the detailed knowledge of what their employees do in order to sort out what can be taken home and what mustn't leave the office, how to encrypt/secure it en route, and how to set up secure access to systems over the internet.

Lest you think I say either of these as a justification for these attitudes, I don't. I think both of them are pretty damning. Not least because, in practice, there are several likely outcomes. Employees can stay home and be unproductive when they could be doing something useful; employees risk injury struggling into work when they really, really shouldn't go out; or employees get pressured into taking work home that shouldn't be taken home, certainly not without proper planning, and quite often in breach of policies, in order to placate their immediate bosses.

Besides, if it's snowing outside, how much work do bosses really think their staff do, even if they are - physically - in the office? :) It snows here for, like, one or two days every 5 years - is it really that awful to let people enjoy it??

(I am greatly in favour of keeping the schools open, because it means kids can play in the snow with their friends, as opposed to being lonely inside while being babysat by grandma. I'm not sure that wins me points with either side on the winter closures debate!)
bunn
5th Feb, 2009 15:21 (UTC)
My memory of the time my primary school tried to stay open in snow is that it was awful because everyone played in the snow, inevitably getting snow all over them: this melted as soon as you came indoors leaving everyone feeling wet, cold and itchy for the rest of the day, and making the walk home very chilly and unpleasant...

Staying home was better because you could still play with your friends but go home and get into dry clothes afterwards. But possibly if all the children had spare clothes with them and somewhere warm to get changed, that would help. Probably also depends how close the kids live to each other, I guess.

My secondary school had an awful experience once, before my time there, when they failed to evacuate after a snow warning, and all the teachers and pupils were trapped in the school for days and had to have food airlifted in. All the time I was there, any hint of snow and immediately the buses would be sent for to get everyone home!
bunn
5th Feb, 2009 16:27 (UTC)
... mind you, I suppose today's kids aren't allowed to just play out in a big crowd under the vague supervision of some distant neighbour...
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