The Working Day (and place)

I touched on this some time ago, but it’s time for a revisit.

Why does so much of the world involve 9-5ish business hours, and going to an office to do so?

What first set me thinking on this was tonights commute home. 43 minutes end-to-end, steady speed (so less emmissions and more MPG), and less stress. This is (roughly) 75% of the average lately, and the difference was that I had to change a router after business hours (after a failed attempt a couple of weeks ago), so left work just after 6pm, rather than the 4:30/5:30 rush hour.

Sadly, I don’t have the opportunity to work (say) 7:30 or 8:00-18:00 every day, aviod the traffic, and take a day off a week. That would do good things for me and the environment, but my employer, like many, wants me at my desk during the day.

If we’re talking about being at your desk during working hours, why in fact be there at all? I’m a network monkey: I support networks, servers, telephony etc etc. I could do 80-90% of my work from where I’m sat now with an IP Softphone (or a mobile) and VPN. I could conceivably only go to the office 1-2 days a week.

Even for meetings there’s plenty of products that can reduce or eliminate the need for people to travel to meet: If you have a national coverage, that can save a wedge. The Webex product is robust enough to do product demos over, and as a support tool for us techies it’s incredible. For one supplier I use, the account manager works at home several days a week, and I cannot tell if she is there or in the office: the phone seamlesly re-routes. An educational establishment I know of in the Black Country uses mobiles with wi-fi connectivity and SIP together with Asterix and makes the user’s internal extension appear seamlessly on their phone if they are at work, home, or anywhere in between and saves a truckload of cash in the process. I’ve done system upgrades sat on my sofa with a beer; Lee H-W has done his (techie) job from a campsite during the Gloucestershire floods.

So then: in our connected world, with all the enabling tech we have, why does the rush hour persist, at least for those of us office-based?

Will rising traffic levels and environmental concerns see this pattern end?


9 Responses to “The Working Day (and place)”

  1. Lee Hampton-Whitehead Says:

    over the years i have …
    Moved entire servers (not physically, but logically) 8 miles across London, while sat at home with a beer
    Rebuilt web servers in rochdale from a hotel room in seattle
    Built ESX servers in California from a hotel room in staffordshire
    Phoned my wife at work with a UK non mobile caller ID while sat in a bar in seattle
    Given Presentations to external support staff (a few 1,000 mile east or UK) from my office desk
    Done firmware updates on NetApp filers in derby from the back garden
    and not to mention just dong my day job from Starbucks when the fire alarm went off..
    BT have “callcenter” workers working from home, not the office cube..
    Download UK TV while 7000 miles away

    So much is possible these days, Geographic , physical boundaries no longer apply…

    The biggest issue is trust, a colleague of my wife’s, cant be trusted to work in the office (facebook and msn) let alone at home….

  2. Stu Says:

    Having been self-employed for over a year now, I’m not sure I could return to 9-5 and offices. (And bosses). Sure, sometimes I’m shooting until 1am… sometimes I’m editing until 2am or doing my website until 4:30am.

    But it’s all for me, and I rarely have to drive during rush hour, which is lovely!

  3. Countrie Bumkin Says:

    I have to agree with Stu – I don’t think I could do 9-5 or 8.45-4.45 if you are working for Mr Vivash ;-). I’ve done one of my latest contracts entirely from home which is great as you can sleep in until 8.45 and start work at 9! Only problem was salting he landing when the snow was on! 🙂

    Surely on the question of trust it’s down to how quick you complete a task – the quicker you do it, the quicker you can get back on tw*tter or facebook – if you must.

  4. Countrie Bumkin Says:

    Talking of which – did you see this?

  5. stymaster Says:

    Well, I’m mostly on a trust basis anyway, though I can’t say I have the ‘complete a task and I’m done’ thing, as there’s always something to do.

    A friend *hates* working from home. Says she misses the colleagues and banter: Now I do get on with my colleagues, but I’d still happily trade my 2 hours in the car and fixed-ish hours for the covenience of being at home and choosing my times.

    I suppose the flipside for you self-employed types are having to cost in your holidays/sick, and the unpredictability of income?

  6. Lee H-W Says:

    sounds like i have the best of both worlds

    predictable income, paid leave, work from anywhere, very flexiable hours
    but in exchange i have to put up with BS/redtape levels only possible in the civil service, without actually being a civil servant…

  7. Countrie Bumkin Says:

    You have to be cut out for working on your own and it is a culture shock when you have no-one to talk to all day. Can put some people off! However, you can concentrate on problems more as you don’t get interrupted! And you can sort the washing out when you need a eye break!

  8. sublimeproduct Says:

    I love having the ability to work from ‘elsewhere’ but being the only guy who can fix stuff on-site, I have to do all levels of IT work and answer the phones. Using remote technologies you can fix almost everything but there will always be a need for a techy with screwdriver even if that techy is being told what to do by someone at the end of a video conference 😉 …I think the issue of trust only applies when there are others to carry you, working on your own/by yourself doesn’t give you that opportunity to slack off.

  9. stymaster Says:

    Well indeed, but we all know places where the carrying happens, don’t we.

    The techy with a screwdriver thing is why I can’t do *all* of my job over VPN.