I’ve been staying on the fringes of the tele-work vs. office working conversation so far, just offering up a couple instances of tele-work usage. Now it’s time to dip a little further into some of the issues. No need to panic, this will NOT be an exhaustive survey of issues, just a rambling of thoughts in regards to recent headlines.
Yahoo’s current argument is to bring tele-workers back into the office environment. I can go along with that at least part way. I do gain personal benefit from chance encounters in the office. However, there are 2 major problems (conceptual, rather than the location/talent reasons that everyone and their brother has already trotted out) that result from doing this as an all or nothing shift.
1) While it’s all fine and good to have these chance encounters, they come about due to distraction and interruption. Distraction and interruption are the enemy of completing projects! So, in essence, you can come up with a lot more ideas of things to do, but then you can’t actually get any of them done.
2) The typical role of management is to prevent people from wandering away from their desks. That makes it pretty hard to have all those great chance encounters. Furthermore, preventing them is done by continually observing and interrupting people. So, you’re both actively preventing people from gaining the benefit of interaction while still supplying the damaging interruptions. Result: If management is doing the (typically defined) job, office workers are both not going to get new idea AND not be able to implement anything.
Certainly not all management is bad. Quite the opposite, there’s a definite need for management in nearly all organizations. Having been on both the manager and the maker schedule myself, I’m very aware of how easy it is to get sucked into the classical management discipline though. As having been a Vice President myself in the past, I still get all kinds of management oriented mailings. It’s very distressing to read them now that I’m working back on the maker side of things again. These mailings are chock full of tips and seminars on how to do the very things that destroy productivity and damage morale. People that really want to become good managers will seek out these papers and events, only to be turned into bad managers (with slightly emptier wallets). Nobody wants to be THAT person, but the system is setup (because people make money off of it) to do exactly that…