Facebook weekend

london-bridge.jpgI had to do a bit of work over the weekend – something of a rush job for a client of mine.  As I was online, I logged into Facebook.  It’s extraordinary…somehow, it manages to recreate in an online environment the exact same feeling you get when you go into the office on a Sunday to catch up.  In comparison to the working week, it’s weirdly quiet…just a few weekend workers like myself floating around.  Tells you almost all you need to know about where and how people are using Facebook.

Yes, we all know it can be huge time-waster – particularly in the honeymoon phase when you’re gathering friends and catching up with old contacts – but should it be banned from the workplace?  Not as far as I’m concerned.  At least, not more than any other website or internet resource.  If people are going to muck around online, they’ll do it anyway.

What I reckon needs to change are management practices.  I was involved in a piece of work a few years ago for MicrosoftDr Carsten Sorensen of the London School of Economics (a top boffin, if you’re ever in need, and great fun too)  produced a paper identifying the changes needed in UK management practices if the brave new world of mobile and remote working was ever going to come to fruition. 

Central to these was the need to change from the current culture of management by sight to management by outcome (or words to that effect…the doc’s actual terminology escapes me).  Basically, he identified that British organisations, in the main, are hotbeds of “presenteeism” – i.e. if you’re seen to be at work you must be working and if you’re not, well, you’re not. 

Obviously this attitude is entirely outdated.  OK, so when you manned a machine in a factory, being there meant you were doing your job.  But these days, how many people can spend a day in the office and actually achieve very little?  Hell, I’ve done it myself on many occasions.  But it’s stuff like the internet  – as a distraction for those people in the office – that becomes the target as “costing UK business billions of pounds in lost productivity…”  But, like I say, if people want to be distracted, they’ll find the distractions.  Christ, a few years back, my team and I spent the best part of a day turning our island of desks into a snow-covered mountain range, complete with cable car.

The good doctor’s conclusion was that, if mobile and remote working is going to succeed, we need to change to a culture of management by outcome, i.e. if people have specific results that they have to achieve, their performance and effectiveness is measured on these results rather than their attendance.  Which makes a lot of sense.

So I’m thinking, why should management by outcome just relate to mobile workers?  If all workers were managed in this way, it wouldn’t matter whether they were office-based, mobile, home workers or a mixture of all of these.  They’d just have specific things to do and as long as they did them, they could spend the rest of their time doing whatever they fancied.  Like going home early.  Or taking a long lunch.  Or mucking around with Facebook.

I’m a freelance and I work (mainly) from home.  So I’m a huge advocate of working to a set of very specific tasks and, when they’re done, doing something else rather than sit at my desk because it’s not yet 5.30pm.  If all businesses managed their people in a similar way, the debates about people wasting time at work would quickly disappear (as would those people who don’t get through their task lists as efficiently as they should…)

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Facebook weekend

  1. Jonathan says:

    Call me petty-minded but when working from a chateau in the French countryside posting philosophy on weekend working is a bit much. Actually there was a time when Le Weekend did n’t exist.

  2. Mark says:

    Ha! Fair play, fair play. Of course I didn’t mention that the weekend was the *only* time I worked last week…

  3. Matt Ravden says:

    Couldn’t agree more, mate, but let’s face it it’s a lot easier to work that way, and to be evaluated in that way (eg, what you produce) when you’re out of the rat-race. In the agency world where we’ve both spent time, ‘visibility’ is disproportionately, but unavoidably, important. I’ve alway suffered to some extent by having a rather unorthodox work-style – I like to piss around the vast majority of the time, but I get huge amounts of work done in really intense, short bursts. So people think I piss around a lot. True, but what about the output?

    The line seems to get drawn when you have a team to manage. No amount of flexi-working, technology, or liberal management ethos seems to get around the problem that if one’s team is working long hours, it doesn’t go down well if you bugger off at 5.30, no matter what the reason. It is wrong, but it still exists and I can’t see it going away, at least not in a traditional company structure.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: