There is nothing like a little swimming against the tide to create a furore.
However in the case of the reported comments from the head of a leading technology company about advocating a employee “homeworking ban” that’s like swimming “up” Niagara Falls (think about it for a second).
All though at the risk of equally drowning in that “Niagara like” torrent, I do understand the comments made and potentially find elements of sense in the sentiment, but don’t agree with all of them.
Put simply, the comments are based on “logic” and ordered thought. The endless complaint of “21st century PLC” is the lack of person to person collaboration and corporate intimacy as we immerse ourselves in this IT rich, always on, “wired” world. For many the time span between speaking to someone else or a face to face interaction can be hours (sometimes when even in the same office) as we email and IM even the most complex of dialogue.
So the thought that reducing the distance between people and thus forcing them via proximity to be in the same place, “should” increase the opportunity to interact as human person to another human person. In yesterday’s world of poorly designed communications and collaboration technologies that either didn’t work or facilitated a poor end user experience, the theory of pushing people back to a central office to collaborate probably holds true, but is that really essential now?
We now have consumer communications and messaging technologies with levels of functionality and reliability so good that they are equally as viable in the enterprise (after successful tests and deployment in the most hostile of battlegrounds, the world of the teenager). We now have always on network connectivity so effective that the London 2012 Olympic games, one of the most information rich online events mankind has ever seen, barely registered a blip on the internet traffic Richter scale (from a negative impact perspective) and not forgetting we have a emerging workforce of tomorrow children so in tune with digital collaboration elements that they are their successful use is already second nature.
So to force people together in the same corporate locale to foster increased collaboration or community is surely no longer required because society has evolved to embrace different collaboration styles and operating modes – many underpinned by “boundary free”, always on collaboration digital methods.
The comments made by the leader of the aforementioned technology company potentially miss the double edged sword that this highly digital world increases end user productivity via a work wherever, whenever, on whatever ideal, but at the expense of a lack of demarcation between work and life (the worklife quandary). There is no global digital off switch for society or in many cases even a personal one. So a removal of remote or home working could hamper modern corporate productivity due to revisiting the ideals that work is a place rather than an activity.
However to come full circle in this blog and to touch on why I understand the comments made, “if work became a place again, and home a location to down tools, would that be such a bad thing ???”. Spend a moment to ask yourself and be honest with the answer… Maybe the “home working ban” isn’t totally of piste after all..
Until next time (and written from my living room)