Thursday, 1 October 2009

Research: The Work Front

People who live blended lifestyles in rural areas either need to be their own bosses, or to have very flexible bosses, or to work nearby.

My employer is very flexible. What does the rest of the picture look like?

1. Between 1997 and 2001, the proportion of people teleworking rose by over 65%, to 2.2 million people. (Matheson, J. and Summerfield, C. (Eds). Social Trends No 31. ONS 2001, p82-83)

2. That kind of freedom is still a privilege rather than the norm, and tends to be enjoyed by graduate and professional knowledge workers. In the US, where teleworkers’ mean income is 66% higher than the national average, 12.5% of the workforce telework. 40% say they would like to but don’t think that their employers would allow it.

(Bennian, Y. and Dwelly, T. (2003) Time to Go Home London: The Work Foundation)

3. Researchers have identified five types of mobile workers, including Yo-yos who occasionally work away from a fixed work location; Pendulums who work alternately at two locations – say, the rural home and the urban office; and Nomads who work at changing locations.

(Lilischkis, S. (2003) ‘More Yo-yos, Pendulums and Nomads: Trends of mobile and multi-location work in the information society’, in Socio-Economic Trends Assessment for the Digital Revolution, p7.)

4. "Organisational cultures are shifting. The bureaucratic, hierarchical structures of old, in which management would impose control over not only what workers do but how, when and where, are beginning to dissolve. Networked organisational structures are growing up in their place, with increasingly flexible relationships between employers and employees hinged by mutual trust. One product of this shift is that more employees are exercising greater autonomy over where they work – and in many cases it is broadband that enables them to seize this freedom."  John Craig and I in Beyond Digital Divides, Demos and the Countryside Agency, 2004.

5. "Employees want more human organisations with greater autonomy and flexibility… In short, they want organisations to ‘disorganise.’" - Miller, P. and Skidmore, P. (2004) Disorganisation: Why future organisations must ‘loosen up.’  London: Demos

6. Since it's launch in 2005, The Hub - a shared office space for come-and-go workers and organisations - has been a phenomenal success, and there are now 18 around the world - just four years since the first one opened.

I reckon there are a lot of jobs where you need to go to the office for group meetings, and that that needs to happen no more than once or maybe twice a week. That's been the case in all the work I've ever done, apart from site specific work like waitressing and babysitting when I was younger. 

In between the office contact, for two or three way communication, skype, the phone, and other kinds of electronic comms work just fine.

This works where there's trust and commitment going two ways.

Call me an extremist, but I'd say, if there's not trust and commitment, why bother?

Lots of managers think their employees have to be in the office all the time so that they can be controlled. And I think, if you have to control people to get work out of them, that's shit. If the work doesn't come voluntarily, there's something fundamentally wrong. The situation is saying something to you.

Like, if you're a plastic cup factory, and your office staff have to work in the office otherwise they'd be at home just pretending to work, that says, the staff don't love the organisation and what it is here in the world to do.

And I think, if an organisation's staff don't love the organisation and what it is here in the world to do, then maybe the organisation doesn't have a right to exist.

Maybe if everybody working in organisations doing and producing things that they didn't love just stopped, you'd only be left with the organisations doing things that were really worth doing.

I've observed a 'fewer, better' principle at play in my life. Gradually, I start wanting fewer, better clothes; fewer, better friends. Maybe the world needs fewer, better organisations.

I know in the interim there'd be a hell of a lot of chaos

but there's a fair amount of chaos around right now

maybe it's time to start

ok, fewer sounds like The Day of the Multinationals but you know what I mean. If no-one loves plastic cup companies, let them die. We'll figure out something better.

Here's what they do in India instead of plastic cups.

When they're done they throw them on the ground and they smash and gradually get stomped back into the earth and it's the same earth that new cups are made from so it's like life, zero waste, works just fine.

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