Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mike Bloomberg and Me on Telecommuting

Boy, am I in trouble. If Mike Bloomberg had his druthers, telecommuting surely would go the way of the 30-ounce soda. Mr. Bloomberg is quoted in both the New York Daily News and the Daily Mail as saying, “telecommuting is the dumbest idea I ever heard.”
Now, granted he’s a mayor and an entrepreneur and a very, very rich guy which I suppose makes him smarter than I am. But surely he’s heard dumber ideas somewhere. For one thing, he has been known to associate with Republicans. He must have heard some of their “ideas.”
And he’s a philanthropist and a great supporter of the arts. Have not any Damien Hirst or Christo projects wafted in his direction?
He laments the fact that when you work at home you don’t get a chance to hang around the water cooler. And that, as everyone knows, is where all the great ideas come from – – the chance meeting, the exchange of confidences, the meaningful arched eyebrow. It’s a wonder anybody has time for an office pool.
It doesn’t matter that the classic water cooler seems to have gone the way of the stagecoach. Oh, water coolers still exist; but they are not oases at which nomadic office workers gather. They are in kitchen hutches that also contain microwaves and fridges. The better to eat at your desk, my dear. One would think that the idea-generating, random, colliding trajectories so revered by Mr. Bloomberg and that Yahoo lady were some kind of CERN supercollider. Ha!
Furtive little runs to the kitchen hutch – – I mean the watercooler – – are not likely to yield the great synergy that, on previous occasions, rewarded us with the startling concept of combining peanut butter with chocolate.
But what about the poor homebound, isolated telecommuters. Well we know they’re more productive because they are not enslaved by the 9 to 5 shackles. (Instead they’re enslaved by the 8 a.m. to midnight shackles.) It’s true they are deprived of seeing their colleagues hydrate themselves, and thereby miss the inevitable inspiration. But they get to be in the world, walk in the park, listen to music, see and speak with people who have entirely different world views and experiences. Also, many successful telecommuting programs encourage the remote personnel to come into the office one or two days a week. Why, it’s almost like combining peanut butter and chocolate.
A lot of resistance to telecommuting has come from those managers who aren’t comfortable with supervising people they can’t see. The grand spectacle of people at their desks for the proscribed period of time means more to these managers than timeliness, quantity, and quality of the work. Now that’s a dumb idea.

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