Scabrously ignorant twat

Home working, covid 19, blah, blah:

Some analysts hoped that less commuting would reduce western capitalism’s dependence on fossil fuels.

What’s this shtick about western capitalism’s dependence? Anyone think the Soviet system didn’t depend upon fossil fuels? Rather more in fact, given that output per unit of fossil fuels was rather lower?

As to selecting those who could – would be allowed to – home work isn’t this just terrible?

while only those deemed to have the right “personality” were extended the privilege of working from home. In 1990, a senior civil servant compiled a formidable list of necessary attributes for prospective teleworkers in his department. They included: “self-motivation and discipline; the ability to work without direct supervision; the ability to cope with minimal social contact and be self-reliant … the ability to cope with any additional stress from dealing with work at the same time as domestic responsibilities.”

Horrors. They’ll be restricting nursing to those who give a shit about pain and suffering, gravedigging to those with arms and tightrope walking to those with legs next.

The Covid-19 crisis is helping to shine a light on both the pleasures and pressures of having the home as your office. Jumping from a Zoom meeting to a lazy game with the kids in the garden might seem like a template for the good life, but home-working does not exist apart from wider social and economic equalities. Achieving job security, control at work and time for a life outside of it is as pressing a problem today as it was for pioneer teleworkers in the late-20th century. If working from home is our post-coronavirus future, let’s not forget its complex past.

How super. So, let’s deal with it. Those who wish to do, those who don’t don’t. We might even call this a free labour market.

45 thoughts on “Scabrously ignorant twat”

  1. Where does the energy come from to run the computer networks that make all this working from home possible? I would have thought that In London, where commutes are so lengthy and onerous, working from home would be better anyway. I used to reduce my fossil fuel use by commuting by bike. I clocked up over 10,000 miles on an old mountain bike over about seven years. Once I got fit enough, it only took ten minutes longer to cycle than to use the car.

  2. And being the civil service, if you didn’t have any of those attributes, you could still be a teleworker if you ticked someone’s diversity box, I’ll bet…

  3. Surreptitious Evil

    But for women without reliable childcare, it was often a choice between inferior pay and conditions as a teleworker or not working at all.

    It’s almost as if, horrible to even consider, that not all aspects of work remuneration are visible in “basic pay” levels.

  4. Surreptitious Evil

    On related matters, going back to the daily commute, whenever that happens, is going to hurt.

  5. “It’s almost as if, horrible to even consider, that not all aspects of work remuneration are visible in “basic pay” levels.”

    Yes, and that life doesn’t involve trade-offs.

  6. It is really noticeable as the lockdown continues that my more extrovert colleagues are dealing with confinement much less well than the introverts, as you might expect. There are teams organising virtual coffees and drinks just to have some form of social interaction.

    I have thought for years that work is inherently a social activity and some people need to get out of the house, so I have brooded over the idea of the kind of shared workspace that you to an extent in some cities. For example, in a small village you’d have one office building with soundproof offices, fully wired to fast broadband. Shared coffee facilities, maybe a canteen if it’s big enough – but everyone in the building works for a different employer

  7. Unless people are pouring steel by robot or something most home work will be office capers. As the money coming in reduces by reason of more and more not having a job/business the need for homeworkers is also likely to decline. How soon before the “Back to the Future” -style P45 print-outs begin?

  8. The Gladrag would have to say that to suck up to their readers.

    But there is likely some truth in it. In almost EVERY situation the well-connected and networked will do better than Mr/Mrs Average.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset

    I have thought for years that work is inherently a social activity and some people need to get out of the house,

    The social aspect side of it has certainly increased as jobs moved in to offices allowing women to enter the workforce in greater numbers. Witness the rise in cake stalls and other social activities that I don’t remember from my early days.

  10. Ecks has an interesting point there. The majority of jobs capable of being homeworked are administrative or supplementary and there’s been enormous growth in these functions over the years. A cynic might suspect part of the reason for that growth has been the politicking of the practitioners of those functions within organisations. Maybe their absence from the workplace will not make hearts grow fonder and some questions might be asked about whether all these parasites are needed.

  11. Please tell me that there is a glitch with your blog rather than a glitch in the matrix. I am sure, absolutely dead certain, I have seen this identical thread some time ago.

  12. As we saw with the push for equal pay for women, the usual suspects were quite happy to ignore the fact that men typically worked more dangerous jobs, in more inhospitable surroundings than women.

    From my own experience, many women take jobs that are office based and more flexible (time wise) in order to have the ability to keep any eye on the kids. Appointments, school run etc.
    We have seen with regards to Doctors surgeries that many part-time women are needed to replace just one male doctor.

    I think big organizations like the NHS could easily lose quite a few % admin staff and not even notice. I think also that when things start getting back to normal and businesses are looking to trim costs to survive, that a lot of these jobs of marginal utility will start to get cut.

  13. In 1990? Should we have to point out to someone that the options back then for home working were pretty limited (what would you do in meetings, get them to send you messages on Compuserve?). The range of work that can be done remotely have hugely expanded since then.

    I’ll bet that she is the type to insist that anything after 5pm is not to be addressed, it’s outside working hours, never mind how much you’re slacking off during the day or being distracted by rug rats, etc. Also my public holidays are sacrosanct, no I will not trade your flexibility for anything.

    “self-motivation and discipline; the ability to work without direct supervision; the ability to cope with minimal social contact and be self-reliant … the ability to cope with any additional stress from dealing with work at the same time as domestic responsibilities.”

    She says this like it’s a terrible imposition. But I’ve spent most of my career working for myself, or employed but on site most of the time, or like now effectively a zero hours casual (some home, some at office/site, paid by the hour). And I can guarantee I am still terrible at items 1 and 2, unless I know people are monitoring my output. In exchange for my very nice working conditions, I’m probably earning less than I could if I were willing to be in the office 10 hours a day, but I’m willing to accept that for freedom to plan my own time. Plus if they’re flexible with me I’m flexible with them (you need someone at midnight on Sat? Ok, I’m free this weekend, but don’t bother calling me Monday) which earns me brownie points. Somehow I don’t think that’s what the author has in mind.

  14. @BiS: “The majority of jobs capable of being homeworked are administrative or supplementary and there’s been enormous growth in these functions over the years”

    One aspect of this that I’ve not seen mentioned at all (particularly with regard to the current situation) is security. Considering the many of these jobs will involve working with (and access to) customer databases, how many have VPN’s provide by their employers? Surely, without it, any GDPR assurances are meaningless? I have a nagging suspicion that lots of the people suddenly “working from home” have just been given a laptop, and told to log onto the company servers from their normal wifi connection…

  15. A friend of mine works for an IT services company with clients around Asia. In Malaysia there is no working from home culture so clients are totally unprepared, having to source hundreds of laptop, while some staff have been taking desktops home with them…

    Another firm has had to hurriedly upgrade its VPNs and bandwidth because the MD believes that WFH=skiving and so under-invested in these things.

    I have been WFH for over a decade and the major plus point is the lack of a commute (although that is less of an issue where I live now; in London it was usually the worst bit of my day) while the major negative is isolation, which I am feeling at the moment. Normally I’d have face to face meetings 2-3 days a week and travel to conferences etc but that’s all gone, even though we are not locked down like the UK.

  16. PS – the comments under that Graun article are interesting; they all seem filled with hate for their jobs, their employers, their colleagues and their partners, especially if said partners are men.

  17. “restricting nursing to those who give a shit about pain and suffering”

    Hah! They can barely get enough nurses as it is. If you exclude those with the wrong personality, you’ll find it hard to recruit the numbers needed. (In practice, staff self-sort into tasks which suit their personalities.)

  18. Dave, that one’s been a bit of a business lately, but that was already being adressed well before this whole thing happened.

    The answer is thin-client PC’s/laptops/tablets which can basically only be used to log into the company portal before you can do anything with them. The GDPR compliant ones also use a separate verification/VPN provider that operates as a gatekeeper before you even get to the company network.
    If IT knows what it’s doing you can’t do anything with those things other than what they’ve provided for you to work with. Including The Internet, again assuming the IT department is actually competent.
    If one of those can’t connect to the central server they’re basically an expensive brick.

    Quite a lot of those are already in use in the more mobile sectors. Especially the ones actually having to comply with GDPR and sensitive private information, like social/mental care workers, consultants, and municipal inspectors/assessors. At least here in Clogland. Dunno about UK or elsewhere.

    If a company still is stuck in the BYOD fad… welll… *shrug* ….

  19. Anyone think the Soviet system didn’t depend upon fossil fuels?

    Well, it certainly depended massively on nuclear power, to our cost.

    They included: “self-motivation and discipline; the ability to work without direct supervision; the ability to cope with minimal social contact and be self-reliant … the ability to cope with any additional stress from dealing with work at the same time as domestic responsibilities.”

    Sounds like a rational thinker. He wouldn’t last five minutes there these days.

  20. SE,

    “On related matters, going back to the daily commute, whenever that happens, is going to hurt.”

    I’m done with it. Nearly all of my output is electronic files: documents, software, diagrams. You don’t need me in the office more than once a fortnight for the odd broad face to face interaction (sometimes useful).

    I’d honestly rather work for a company that’s 2 hours away and do a trip once a fortnight to see them than spend 30 minutes on the train each day (which turns into an hour with connections). One thing that kills commuting for me is the incompetence and unreliability of the railway companies.

  21. Flatcap Army,

    “It is really noticeable as the lockdown continues that my more extrovert colleagues are dealing with confinement much less well than the introverts, as you might expect. There are teams organising virtual coffees and drinks just to have some form of social interaction.

    I have thought for years that work is inherently a social activity and some people need to get out of the house, so I have brooded over the idea of the kind of shared workspace that you to an extent in some cities. For example, in a small village you’d have one office building with soundproof offices, fully wired to fast broadband. Shared coffee facilities, maybe a canteen if it’s big enough – but everyone in the building works for a different employer”

    People are trying this out a little, but there isn’t really much of a gap between “we really need you in the office because we’re anal and/or our stuff is really super confidential” and “eh, work where you like, get the job done”.

    I just use Starbucks. The new one near me has 4 small tables, each with a power point. Noise isn’t a problem. Most people are sending messages, not calling. They’ve got wifi, although I generally just hotspot my phone. And the coffee’s good. If I need to do a voice meeting, I do it from home.

    There’s a “co-working space” near me that’s more expensive than 4 cappucinos, so there’s no real benefit over Starbucks.

    (I’m also converting a room into an office which will have a beast of an i7 PC and triple monitors).

  22. On related matters, going back to the daily commute, whenever that happens, is going to hurt

    One of the benefits of shift work.
    Commuting takes about 15min on a bad day.
    With the odd exception for bank holidays when the roads are full of holidayers. (then i have to use to local back roads and it may take a whole 20min).

    If i ever had to commute into a city again, I would resume my motorcycling ways. How/why people sit in a car for hours each day is something I’ll never understand.

  23. @Grikath
    +1
    Except the ‘thin client’ device is now a virtual desktop that can be run on pretty much any device from a smartphone to a tablet, an iMac a PC or Linux. You can’t always fit everyone into this model – some developers, CAD/CAM engineers or graphics designers may struggle with a crap screen – but 99% of office workers just need Office (or equivalent) email and web access and they’re golden.

  24. @ Grikath – Thanks for your input. “Assuming the IT department is actually competent” I would hope that all the larger companies have decent IT, but I was thinking more of smaller outfits who may not have had staff WFH before.

  25. One thing’s for sure, all those ‘dog in the manger’ middle managers who said “homeworking can never work, because reasons” are going to look pretty foolish. Not many people will be begging to return to ‘9 to 5’ 5 days a week, and companies will be looking at their expensive office space and wondering how much less they can get away with.

    Remind me again, why do we need to spend £100++ billion on a new train set to ‘increase rail capacity’?

  26. The Meissen Bison

    Chris M: Why do we need to spend £100++ billion on a new train set to ‘increase rail capacity’?

    Ansolutely. I’ve been thinking that all the disappointing decisions that Boris Johnson has made since the 2019 election look even wronger now than they did then:
    1) HS2
    2) Huawei and 5G
    3) Green nonsense because the model she says “or else”.

    With regards to (3)the picture of Gove fawning rapturously behind Pippi Climatestocking wins him a priority lampost in the Ecksian purge. Matt Hancock’s lampost wins the Oscar for best supporting role.

  27. “you’d have one office building with soundproof offices, fully wired to fast broadband. Shared coffee facilities, maybe a canteen if it’s big enough – but everyone in the building works for a different employer”

    It’s a nice idea. But wasn’t there a company that just blew a large amount of other people’s money on exactly this, rather recently?

  28. Been helping with teleworking setup the last few weeks.
    We were in the middle of MFA rollout for VPN and remote working and accelerated it for the current situation, interestingly we have heard of other organisations suspending MFA rollout programs as they don’t want to introduce change during the ‘crisis’
    As our boss said we need to be more secure in this situation than less secure.
    One of the biggest issues has been monitors and docking stations, people take a laptop home but don’t have anywhere to plug it in or the right cables/adapters/ports

  29. Bloke in North Dorset

    TMB,

    1) HS2 – I guess the Treasury will be wanting to have a word about that now they’re seeing the bill for the Chancellor’s promises and with yet more to come.

    2) Huawei and 5G – A former business partner and good friend is quite senior in one of the MNO strategy departments. The problem is they are desperate for 5G because they’re running out of 4G capacity and no other suppliers can deliver in the same timescales.

    3) Green nonsense because the model she says “or else”. – Yep, they’re going to have trouble explaining how we get to “net zero carbon” [sic] if locking us all up makes very little impact on our current CO2e emissions.

    I hope we can add the PHE and all the other nannying bullshit about obesity epidemics, sugar taxes and everything else they propose. TBF, Boris’s instincts are to be liberal on these issues and treat us like adults, now he’s got some excuses to put them back in the box.

    Chris Snowden has a good post on this point: https://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.com/2020/04/corona-bollocks-bumper-bank-holiday.html

  30. View from the Solent

    TMB
    “Matt Hancock’s lampost wins the Oscar for best supporting role”

    Applause. Load applause. Standing ovation.

  31. @BlokeInBrum

    NHS should lose the Managers & Admin Brown hired, ie 50% of all. They’ve proved to be useless and obstructive in this crisis

    PPE shortage is because each NHS Trust’s Procurement Director failed to respond in December, January and February and order more*. Manufacturers would then have been able to respond. Boris & Hancock not responsible. When will BBC, C4, ITV interrogate these very highly paid (~3x Hancock’s salary) Procurement Directors?

    Why will no Ministers or MPs state this as Trump does?

    Donald Trump to Fox News reporter: You should say “great job instead of being so horrid”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-6lDmO0TMA

    Trump spot on. Same as in UK where NHS Trust purchasing managers responsible for PPE shortage, not Gov

    @Ltw, MC

    I often worked from home from 89 on and taking desktop home was normal. Worked for a firm covering world and frequently volunteered to work public holidays for day-off in lieu and free delivered take-away (usually pizza) for lunch

    @Grikath

    Yep. We have had NFR Citrix Thin Clients – small box on back of LCD monitor, reminiscent of dumb terminals – they work fine if/but. Problem is IT Dept makes rules, managers approve outside IT spec IT from own budget

    @The Meissen Bison April 13, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    +1,000

    @Tim Worstall

    Yep, and Regus don’t supply free beer, playrooms and bouncy castles

  32. @ Ecksy – And it’s not just transport – a report in the paper today says that many dentists will fold if the lockdown continues for much longer. As if getting an appointment isn’t difficult enough already! There are numerous other examples of business failures which will have knock-on effects. I was intending to spend part of my savings travelling around the country over the next couple of years. I’d hoped to see a bit more of it before it’s completely f***ed, and wanted to visit some of the numerous engineering & transport museums. But just how many of them – or any other “touristy” venues – will still be open is highly questionable. There is no doubt in my mind that the long term effects (including other health issues) of a prolonged shutdown will be substantially greater than any caused directly by the virus – but can we expect those to get the same hysterical level of media coverage???

  33. “a report in the paper today says that many dentists will fold if the lockdown continues for much longer”

    Not to worry. They can get capital to restart a business.

    My concern is with my hair cutter. She can’t start her own business. If the shop she works at goes bust, she is in deep doo.

  34. Most hairdressers hire out a spot inside a salon and many if not most are self employed.
    I don’t doubt that they can get back up and running once restrictions are lifted. Whether there will be enough women who can afford to shell out £50-£100 for a cut and blow-dry is a different question.

  35. Normandy: So it’s still “teleconference”. I don’t VirginMedia somebody, I telephone them. I don’t RoyalMail to somebody, I post to them. I don’t PlusNet somebody, I email them. I don’t Arriva to work, I get a bus to work.

  36. “Zoom” has a pre-existing meaning, meaning adjust visual apparatus to make detail bigger. Communicating remotely with multiple people has a pre-existing word to describe it, “teleconferencing”.

  37. Jgh,
    Zoom for teleconferencing.
    Googling for searching the Internet,
    Kleenex for facial tissue,
    Coke for soda pop,
    Etc, etc, etc.
    That ship has sailed.

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