Archive for December, 2010

TED Talk: Why work doesn’t happen at work

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Some interesting points in this TED talk by Jason Fried of collaboration company 37 signals.

He raises the point that ‘The Office’ is very important in most companies, in terms of cost, and the management desire to force people to attend one – and yet very often is not the place where productive work is done.

His argument is a little more nuanced than ‘so don’t use one’. Jason recognises that people are individual, and have different needs and tastes with regard to how they give their best. For example, some people are more creative late at night or at weekends. Some work needs to be done without the distraction inherent in ‘Management By Wandering Around’ practices.

In my own experience, I have found that I am very good at doing routine tasks in an office environment, sat close to other staff. But I simply for the life of me cannot script an original presentation.

For that, I have to go in a quiet room – and speak it out loud. I experiment with how several of the lines sound, with how I want to express ideas. I will make sure that key points scan well – so they sound nice. I pace up and down like an idiot. I don’t know why I do that; I know it sure does look off-putting to other staff – and I know that if I don’t do it, my thought processes stop.

I suspect I am not alone. Okay; maybe I *am* alone in my own specific weirdness – my wife seems to think that – but I reckon we all have something similar. Some individualistic ‘not-quite-the-done-thing’ way of getting the best out of us on behalf of our team. Some way that a typical office setting is not flexible enough to accommodate.

It’s at this point I would recommend taking that brave management decision: what do you really want? The best from your individual, talented staff? Or to do the done thing and follow The Rules ™ which clearly state that at all times, all staff are seated at a desk?

Interesting – as always – TED talk. What are your experiences? Any aspect of your work that you do better outside of the confines of the office?

Is working in the office a skive?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Office worker lazing in chair with book from

(inspired by this BBC article)

As UK snow levels rise and desire to venture out falls faster than a thawed snowman’s scarf, we ask ourselves ‘can working in an office ever be a skive?’.

The received wisdom appears to be that remote workers cannot be trusted to do anything other than watch Jeremy Kyle (UK daytime TV; US readers simply breathe a sigh of relief. You simply do not want to know -ed). As a result, many are forced to difficult, depressing and often dangerous travels to an office somewhere.

So, conclusive proof. Home work equals skiving. The solution is simply to stick said skiver in an office, where skiving – so it is believed – is impossible.

But must we home skivers really accept this? Is there really no way we can practice our beloved skiving away from home comforts?

We sent our roving investigators out to an office somewhere in the frozen wastelands of the UK to find out if anything could be done.

We found that all was not lost.

Such were the findings that our reporters hid their notes, fearing reprisals. But we found them on anyway. Here is what they discovered:

The Watercooler Technique

Rather satisfyingly, a basic technique that is rather easy to pull off, requiring only equipment readily found to hand. The plastic cup is held firmly in the right hand and filled with water. A quick glance around the office should be enough to attract an accomplice. A cursory ‘Did you get that project plan?’ should be all that is needed to attract the accomplice over, and proceed to discuss just how poor last night’s match was, and how rubbish iPhone battery life actually is. All essential business stuff.

The Reverse Telecommute

Modern technology leaves no stone unturned, and the most popular technique we investigated was the Reverse Telecommute. Requires web browser access. From the sumptuous comfort – and free coffee, lighting, heating and internet – of your office chair, simply log in to your personal finances! Buy christmas presents online! Even arrange redeliveries of your friend’s sofa! All without even making a sound.

For extra effect, a few looks of concentration every now and then, as if on some difficult problem, should be enough to secure not only success but probably an Oscar.

The Stores Run

Modern business cannot survive on words alone. There are staplers, pens, stamps, envelopes, tea, milk, sandwiches, the office group lottery ticket. These items don’t appear magically you know! Someone has to get them. Our investigators were told the word ‘shop’, but in fact heard ‘opportunity’. They found that, on average, a shop run to buy a pint of milk lasts 1:42min 13 seconds, and involves several essential visits to the gadget shop, Oddbins, Tesco and that place that sells cheap SD cards for digital cameras.

The Clipboard

Our researchers found ‘The Clipboard’ was by far the most efficacious technique, but can only be pulled off with a certain amount of skill. Advanced skivers only. The props are simple. One needs a clipboard, pen, and a sheet of A4 paper on the clipboard with some arcane notes.

The technique involves bustling around the office at various locations, scrawling notes as you go. If various objects can be ‘examined’ along the run, this adds to the effect. The illusion – in the hands of experts – is complete: Important work! Deadline NOW!!

The additional master-level tactic is to wear a furrowed scowl throughout, to indicate that you are simply too busy to be interrupted with any other requests. For the professional skiver, this technique can actually go undetected for several weeks, especially if the luxury of ‘multiple departments’ is available.

It appears we skivers can all relax. The rumours of the death of skiving in the office have been greatly exaggerated.

I’d finish this piece with a witty sign out, but frankly – today, I’m working from hom….