Well it would seem the ‘Out of office’ function on your trusty email is now well and truly redundant. There is now never any excuse to be out of the office. With the Internet, Blackberry, iPhone or virtual private network you are linked to the office with a digital umbilical cord that can never be severed.
We are told this is fantastic news and that productivity can jump to record levels, whilst each employee is contactable and fruitfully employed at a moments notice. Any time of day. Anywhere in the world. Brilliant.
But hang on. Aren’t we forgetting something? Oh yes; we are human fucking beings, and we don’t necessarily want to be working 24 hours a day, putting our jobs before time with our families, and never having a moment to switch off and relax. Even machines need maintenance.
I am abroad on a work trip at the moment. Away from the bosom of my family in the back end of nowhere. A stranger in a strange town. Another embarrassing English victim of that damn ivory tower, but away nevertheless, overseeing quite a tricky project. So imagine my unadulterated delight when an email dropped into my inbox requesting that I just do a little job that will take no more than quite a lot of hours.
‘Just fit it in if you have any down time, or perhaps do it tonight. If you run out of time, I will try and reorganise it so that you can work on it tomorrow night as well.’
Oh, will you really? Well thank you very much. Thank you very fucking much indeed. It’s not as if I need to concentrate on what I’m doing here, I’m just sat around with my thumb up my arse, singing along to the smash hits of John Denver whilst trying to decorate my shoes imaginatively. And once I’ve finished I can think of nothing I would like to do more than go back to my soulless hotel room and do some more work. Tell you what; why not send over a couple of new briefs for me to look at while I’m at it? And heaven forbid I should stop working before midnight, but if I do I will attempt to learn the art of sword swallowing whilst juggling squirrels to entertain the rest of the staff at the Christmas party. How’s that?
Surely things were better when work was work, home was home and evenings and weekends were our own? Is it really that productive to have employees splitting their time so much that no one job gets the attention it warrants, and the employee ends up less motivated, less engaged and less effective?
I suggest we bring back the ‘out of office’ function, and when we’re out, we stay out.