Do Your Home Work and Get the Job Done

Home working Guru

Home working. Remote working. Hybrid working. Virtual office. Many terms are being bandied about on the merits and negatives of working somewhere that is not ‘work’. My workplaces have included lay-bys, Portstewart beach, a pub near Loch Ness, various coffee shops on the North Coast, the garden, my bed, hospital, St Peter’s Basilica and the Colca Canyon in Peru.

Years ago, when I was being interviewed for an employer that operated across multiple sites, I was asked in the interview how I would manage working across long distances. I replied that I had just worked on a book with a writer that lived in South Africa, so I didn’t see the difference between the north coast and Belfast as much of a problem. That was before email, the days of fax and putting items in the internal mail.

Funny how some people think writing memos all day telling people what to do, justifying what they have done or exercising their personal desire for a bit of office-onanism. These are the same people that think lengthy meetings are ‘work’ and productive. They aren’t.

Now it wouldn’t be best practice to give away the trade secrets of the brotherhood and sisterhood of home workers. But there are a few pointers, and as Jane Eyre might have said, Dear Reader, you can make up your own mind which is true.

Most people assume that working at home involves a fair bit of dossing. Certainly, aside from the givens like wearing whatever you want, or nothing if the mood takes you, there isn’t the same pressure to look busy or appear absorbed in your work as in a ‘normal’ workplace.

Suspicious Minds

Employers have a natural suspicion of workers ‘working from home’. So as I heard an IT Guru explain earlier, often you may have had to be in your role for two years before you get the go-ahead to work from home. Having been there for the arbitrary time of two years clearly delineates a worker that is dedicated to the cause. Think about it. What nonsense. That thinking will no longer be acceptable in this post-post-industrial society or whatever it is we live in.

As an aside here, companies generally aren’t judged as profitable based on the number of hours an individual spends inside its four walls are they? There is an assumption that time on the premises is related to productivity. When you break this down, the logic of people coming together to work was a product of the industrial revolution and manufacturing technology growth. The calculation is simple. More people operating more machines generated more product.

So success was based on an equation of something like ‘No of employees x Hours worked = Output (profit)’.

So as an employer you want the maximum number of people on-site to operate the maximum amount of equipment possible for as long as possible. Think about the domino effect on all aspects of the worker experience, enjoyment, quality of life.

So success was based on an equation of something like ‘No of employees x Hours worked = Output (profit)’. That’s fine if you’re producing something tangible like a widget, a shirt or a component etc. The equation can be further refined by burnishing the employee factor by adding things like training, skills, being nice to them. The ‘hours worked’ factor can be adjusted by paying staff to work longer hours (overtime), or by making the equipment they use more efficient. There is the option too, of course of shift work. Demand will dictate that half your work force at any time are working at night. And they’d better get used to it.

Of course the optimum for many employers is having efficient equipment and having employees prepared to work for longer hours for no extra financial reward. There is a reward of sorts, of course, in that if you are always seen to be working late or starting early, then assumptions are made about your dedication and commitment. Sending that 3.30am email solving a problem or completing some task is a way of showing your undying commitment to the cause.

Absence Makes the Cart go Under

Except it’s not. One of the problems in the workplace is that of absenteeism—the crime of not being there when you’re supposed to be. I always thought this was a fallacy because I worked with many people, and with quite a number of them, it really made no difference if they were physically present or not. Both in terms of their own efficiency and productivity, and in the positively detrimental effect they had on the people around them. This can apply equally to management, and the saying when the cat was away, the mouse can play is true. Let the frivolity begin. Equally true is the reality that if the cat is away, the mice can get on with their work in a state of uninterrupted euphoria that the boss won’t be lurking about, checking on them and generating additional meaningless and pointless tasks.

I worked with a manager who worked late one evening a week minimum, dictating memorandums to all and sundry. That was his work. To me, that is not work. Yes, he was there physically, but it was a pointless enough task. So my judgement was that it was a waste of time being there and suggests a further waste of time during the working day to necessitate after-hours presenteeism.

Yes, then the other side of the coin is presenteeism, the opposite of absenteeism. In this situation, the worker can get themselves into such a state of workplace ecstasy and frenzy that they spend multiple extra hours at work and then bring the work home, plug in their device and go again. This individual is to be pitied, looked at askance and sent for help. They will buy TV dinners for the microwave, drink excessive amounts of coffee and volubly tell everyone how busy they are, how tired they are. They won’t admit that they are in fact, inefficient in their use of time, possibly incompetent.

If as a worker it is your misfortune to be managed (often micromanaged) by one of these people, then you will likely be expected to devote yourself to the Gods of Presence, and tension is inevitable if you don’t conform. The trick, in this case, is to be efficient in what you do, get the tasks done and preserve the artifice of being a slave to your work and your workplace.

Otherwise simple landmarks like completing a task during the working day and getting ready to head home at the appointed time will generate muttering.

I will return to this new method of working from a location that is not work in due course, but in the meantime, here are some tips on home working based on working on many assignments.

Ten Tips HR Won’t Give You About Home Working

1 Invest in a sofa. Hard to beat a sleep during the day as the need arises. More comfortable than slumping and drooling over your desktop let me confirm.

2 Try and identify a time to be at your work station, whether it be desk, kitchen table etc. Once you get there it may take a while to get into work mode and you may get lost down a rabbit hole or two, but you are there.

3 Keep a list of what you’re trying to do and don’t be afraid to switch from one assignment to the other for short blocs of time.

4 Have a notebook and pen to write down your stream of consciousness, ideas, notes, frustrations. If an idea doesn’t work in one place, you may be able to produce it as a solution somewhere else.

5 Get a good selection of tunes and a decent sound system so as necessary you can turn up the volume.

6 Don’t watch daytime TV or use daylight working hours to catch up on your box set (not even just one episode….?) NO!.

7 Live and work guilt free. Want to go for a walk? Do it. Need to go to the bank? Go do it. Couldn’t be arsed working this morning. Then don’t work. Want to work tonight instead? Do it. Find the times that you work well and slot yourself in there. Employers need to understand we’re not all morning people.

9 Invest in a fish tank. Very relaxing.

10 Play your musical instrument for a while every day at your desk.

Rather than be a slave to the clock, remember you’re not a factory worker or a sweatshop worker. Apply different rules for yourself. Your own rules. Based on what you produce. Not on time spent. And stick to them. And have a few plan Bs and Cs. Not every day is the same, and as Heraclitus said, you can’t step in the same river twice.


America Got Bin Laden. . . and Other Tales Of All Ireland Madness

24 September 2013
Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 17.01.37The 16th Man and Referees in General

What is it about All Ireland winning managers? Is the stress of the job sucking the enthusiasm and enjoyment out winning? Is the winning of Sam Maguire not a time for unabashed celebration? Last year it was Jim McGuinness seizing the headlines at the post match press conference. On Sunday it was Jim Gavin who let rip at refs who he considers all season have had it in for the Dubs. “Not only were we playing Mayo but we were playing the referee as well. . . We play the game with certain values in the squad and we play the game the way we believe it should be played.”

Tis a pity that in the warm Autumnal afterglow of victory that the manager can’t just focus on the positives rather then dwell on perceived slights. It was he who said before the final: “For me, the most important thing or maybe the most enjoyable, is those few moments you can reflect with the team in the confines of the dressing room in the depths of the stadium afterwards.” Enjoy it Jim, it’s what you’ve put your life on hold for.

The Foul Count

And. . .  live from Sesame Street we have the Count: ‘HA Ha ha ha. . . and today’s number is 30 and today’s letter is capital ‘C’ for cynicism.” That’s what the Count thought of Sunday’s game. Do you agree? With all of Dublin’s attacking play they out fouled Mayo by 30 to 12. And the end with the game in the mixer and 13 players on the field, the All Ireland champions did what other teams did all season and disrupted, fouled and delayed Mayo as much as they could to hang on to what they had. Perhaps they learned that from that Tyrone match they played in the league earlier in the year. . . or are we just being cynical.

The 30 Seconds That Were(n’t?)

Not since the assassination of President Kennedy and the Grassy knoll has there been such a conspiracy theory. What did referee Joe McQuillan say to Cillian O’Connor before the fateful free? And where did those 30 seconds go? You wouldn’t see the likes of it in the hurling final. . . . Today in the press the Cavan whistler states unequivocally that he told the player that there was 30 seconds left: “I simply said ‘there’s 30 seconds left’ and that was from the moment he asked me. I said it three times, I’m sure plenty of players heard me and I was on an open mic to all my match officials.” That ends the matter surely. But with twelve Dublin players behind the ball, he wouldn’t have scored a goal anyway. Or would he. . .

The Parade and Other Traditional Routes

Some Mayo people basking in the DTs of defeat have raised the question as to why the Dubs always get to kick in to the Hill 16 end and why they broke away from the pre match parade early. Was it because there were a lot of Mayo folks on the Hill? Well we all remember the last time another team warmed up into the Hill, Pilar Caffrey dozed into John Morrison and Mayo dietician Mary McNicolas was knocked rotten by a flying O’Neills size five. Twas mighty craic for the supporters as seventy or more grown men ran about like kids in a playground. But seriously folks, Croke Park is Dublin’s home patch so surely people should just let them warm up at the Hill 16 end if they want to. If teams aren’t going to observe the tradition of the pre match parade then is it time to get rid?

Osama Bin Laden: ‘My Role in Mayo’s All Ireland’

A videotape has emerged, apparently recorded in a Cave in the Tora Bora in Afghanistan by the late Osama Bin Laden, predicting that Mayo will win Sam Maguire and that all other curses and piseogs are subject to a fatwa. Seriously though, what of Mayo County Council Chairman’s rallying cry ‘America got Bin Laden, Mayo will get Sam Maguire. Is this fair? After all, one is an outfit with extremist fanatical supporters pursuing a series of grievances real and imagined; the other is a former Al Qaeda leader assassinated by the United States. Extremists Abu!

Hands Across the Border

So Martin McGuinness is planning to shake hands with Queen Elizabeth.

My problem with the British Royal Family is more to do with being born into privilege than the fact they represent such unrelenting Britishness which I always abhored but more frequently nowadays ignore.

My father had an apt saying for people that did not merit coming under his notice. Don’t even ignore them he would say.

“By the lonely prison wall I heard a young girl calling, Michael, they are taking you away”

For her part the Queen of England has shaken hands with some fairly distasteful people. Distasteful to me. To her perhaps. To others. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. Saudi Princes, Augusto Pinochet, George Bush, Robert Mugabe, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa.

“For you stole Trevelyn’s corn, So the young might see the morn, Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay”

My daughter sings a wee song the refrain of which goes ‘So let us shine, you in your small corner and I in mine.’ Some day next week in a small corner of the Lyric Theatre this minor drama will play itself out. Martin, the alleged former commander of Oglaigh na hÉireann will shake hands with the Commander in Chief of the British Forces.

Last year when the House of Windsor descended on Ireland, the southerners couldn’t have been more sycophantic fawning over a British Queen. Since then Martin made his own pitch for Head of State and realised in the process that he was probably less popular in the Country whose freedom he has dedicated his life to, than the Monarch from whose chains he wished to unshackle his countrymen.

“By a lonely prison wall I heard a young man calling, Nothing matters Mary when you’re free”

Somewhere along the election road did Martin realise the futility of it? Today’s statement by Gerry Adams was interlaced with the sort of coded language designed assuage his more militant comrades. Sinn Fein are still sticking to their task. A United Ireland is still on the cards. Such is their sensitivity, that Martin rubbing hands with QE II won’t be photographed. That is a clinch too far.

How far we have come in the last few years. The pride of the Irish nation is at rock bottom after the bankers and the developers and the gobshites and the planners were let loose on the country. Truth be told they did more damage to Ireland than Martin and his comrades. The place has never been worse.

In the last week we have had a former Republican Hunger Striker turned developer assert his British identity in the bankruptcy court. Did he foresee that day would come on the blanket in the Kesh. The Irish soccer team’s abject capitulation caused a salvo of navel gazing not seen since Saipan as we asked are we a nation of competitors or cheerleaders cum beer leaders. Toasting every defeat with another pint of booze as the latest disaster befalls our hapless people.

“Against the Famine and the Crown, I rebelled they ran me down”

And the anthem that plays behind this farrago of faded green is the dirge-fest funereal Fields of Athenry that laments the single biggest disaster to befall our nation. Still it could be worse, I suppose it could be the dreaded Ireland’s Call, the Shoulder Song as my brother in law calls it.

Still, for Martin and Elizabeth Windsor, to give her republican name, Ireland is Calling.

“Now you must raise our child with dignity.”

Get on with it, behind closed doors if necessary, so we can all move on with the real business in hand.

Sing Then You’re Winning?

So Ireland were outclassed and outplayed by a superior Spanish team, who are after all reigning European Champions and World Cup Winners.

No-one seriously can have expected a different outcome can they? The performance and result were disappointing, particularly given what we’ve seen before from Trapp’s team with its defensive organisation and ability to frustrate.

In the aftermath of last night’s game, many commentators have commented on the tremendous support for the Boys in Green coming from the stands. The support was unconditional, the chanting designed to get the faintest of hearts pumping and the rendition of the Fields of Athenry that reverberated round Gdansk, well it was a thing of wonder.

Or was it? Was this, as John Delaney of the FAI described it, the ‘Abiding Memory’ of Poland? Or should we be looking for something more. Maybe something on the pitch? Are we as Irish people starting to become weary of this stereotype that we’ll go along for the sing song and the party and enjoy ourselves irrespective of the result.

Or are we accepting of results, win lose or draw so long as we can have a good time, sinking a few pints and having the craic with the locals and the other fans. Harmless and roaming free with the wife’s permission and the Credit Union’s cash?

There is no denying the gulf in class between Trappatoni’s Ireland and the likes of Spain. The personnel just aren’t there to go toe to toe with the likes of the better teams. Really once qualified, are we just going along for the craic? Are our expectations too high?

And as one academic commented last night, are we also content to leave as our abiding legacy at this tournament a lamentable dirge about the biggest single catastrophe to befall the Irish people.

To hell with Trevelyn and his bloody corn.