The future of work?

In the early nineties the MNC I worked for had a near death experience. We had the good fortune to hire an exceptional CEO who rescued the Company. One of his comments (amongst many) that has stuck with me over the years is “I don’t care how hard somebody has pushed the rock, I care about how far they have moved it”. That comment changed my management style. I managed by results, not effort.

Johnson, being a natural born shirker can’t understand that and Wooster-Mogg, being of of the ruling class, just expects the lower orders to do as they are told.


It really struck me as quite a big ‘moment’ when Dixons said recently that they were closing one of their main offices, which was I think officially the group head office and used to be Carphone Warehouse’s HO before the merger, and taking space in a WeWork, with part of that deal being that staff could also access the WeWork nearest to them. It’s the sort of thing forward thinking companies, often tech ones, have been doing for almost a decade, but a lumbering giant of traditional U.K. retail doing it just felt like a much bigger deal, it felt almost like it gave permission for others who might have been too scared to do something ‘dramatic’ and against the traditional order of things to do it now. It will be very interesting to see whether it has more of a domino effect or not


Broadly speaking I agree - most office jobs could be done from anywhere given a good Internet connection and the right IT.

However beware the adage “if you can do your job anywhere, someone anywhere can do your job”.

I’m not sure I want to compete with someone in India who can work for half what I get paid and still have a good quality of life.

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In 2012 I got made redundant at very short notice from my then university employer. “But Mark, didn’t you go to the redundancy meeting?” “No, I was busy giving a paper in Dubrovnik at a major European aesthetics conference on our university’s very successful research project with a leading Chinese artist and what’s more you’d given me a generous grant to present it.”

In the event, I got my revenge, at least to some extent, by not submitting my previous five years research to the university’s quinquennial research assessment exercise - so they lost lots of my international publications and got a lower research rating and thence less dosh in the next round of research hand-outs.

Fortunately, in addition to the university’s sizeable pay-out (negotiated by my union) I was able to subsequently massively increase my online work with the Open University and working with students from the Arctic Circle to Crete. Also, suddenly I no longer needed to do massive commutes and instead could have leisurely breakfasts before settling down in an armchair to read students’ overnight communications. What a civilised way to provide higher level education!


Very, I am sure :slight_smile:

Obviously there is a slight downside to WFH in that you need to heat your home office space and power computers etc - but I suspect that the upside of not commuting is greater, even if you do it on public transport, and many who have a job that they can do at home will commute by car anyway - at least outside of London.

It seems a bit of a no brainer to me.

That assumes that the skills, and equally their understanding of context are comparable, but if they are (unlikely?), then you may indeed have probs

But this issue is not specific to home-working - it has already affected factories. call-centres, etc.

My experience within IT suggests otherwise - up to and including having to throw away code written by an Indian outsourcing company because it was decidedly under par.

However there is an odd thing in IT whereby management tends to believe that all tenders are equivalent and differ only in price so the cheapest one or the one that offers an unrealistic timetable always seems to win out somehow.

In addition once your job has been outsourced it can be difficult to get back on your feet, even though it is normally not the fault of the individual concerned seeing redundancy on someone’s CV is a decided turn off for new employers.

Even if you can find a new position - I was made redundant in the early 2000’s and had my feet back under a desk within weeks - being made redundant is traumatic, I honestly don’t recommend it.

Call centres, yes - but see above for the quality that is provided. Some companies have repatriated the work because customers complain.

Personally I don’t care if the person on the end of the phone is in Mumbai - I do  object when I’m given an obviously false but English sounding name, I also get a bit hacked off when the telephony is low quality, with too little bandwidth allocated so the person on the other end is unintelligible and would be if they had an impeccable English accent.

I also get a bit irritated when it is obvious that they do not have the experience, authority or links back into the UK infrastructure to deal with my query. Sometimes if you can’t do it yourself on the company website neither can they - and I wouldn’t have called if it was something I could sort out myself.


I think most of the perceived problems with home working are fairly easily resolved with appropriate organisation. Face-to-face meetings, for example, do have different strengths and weaknesses from online - but a mixture can provide the best of both worlds. Support and integration of new staff needs a more careful approach. And so on.

On the other hand, the advantages of home working seem more solid - saving the energy used and pollution involved in daily commuting, for example.

The long-term transfer of spend from city centres out to towns and villages is also probably a good thing.

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Tax deductible, as are all other expenses related to the study room one uses for teaching - the UK’s not all bad -just mainly. …!

Yes, but if you claim that I suspect you pay capital gains tax on a proportion of gain on your home if and when you sell. There’s nothing for nothing :frowning:

The problem is that employers gleefully dumping UK employees, many of whom were not actually earning that much, and outsourcing those jobs to India etc where employees earn even less, for the past twenty years know perfectly well that all the cultural content, context etc is not provideable by those outsourced employees and this does overlap into skill areas.

But the employers didn’t care, and this impacted other employees’ ability to do their jobs and often ruined the customer experience where call centres were outsourced. Leading after years of pain dumped particularly on customers of UK businesses, to a few like NatWest publicly announcing “All our call centres will now be based in the UK [again]”.

One of my (less onerous) responsibilities back in the noughties was a European technical support centre of around 500 souls. At the same time as part of other business lines I’d outsourced some first level support and application development to various centres in India. I think it’s a matter of putting the right work in the right place, not just the cheapest place. It’s our challenge in the West to identify the areas we can excel in and accept that other lower skills will migrate abroad. That’s why I’m pissed off about loosing IP.

The ‘outsourcing jobs abroad’ aspect of this discussion (which by the way I think is thread drift, as it’s not really related to working from home) reminds me of the utter failure of the UK media in the brexit referendum campaign to explain why Europeans see freedom of movement as essential to the single market.

Not because of some starry-eyed idea that ‘we’re all Europeans’, but because you can’t have freedom of capital without freedom of (labour) movement. Without freedom of movement the whole single market edifice collapses, precisely because with relatively easy movement of trade and capital, investment flows to low cost countries - ie. jobs are outsourced. This is the failure of ‘globalisation’ - a failure the EU avoids by allowing people from poorer countries to move to richer for work and thus, through a whole series of well-understood economic mechanisms, gradually creating a level playing field.


As the thread title is “The Future of Work” I’d say it was perfectly on topic, it’s just a different aspect.

Anyway, as they say, shift happens.

Yet the south of Europe remains relatively poor compared to the North which is widely viewed as a failure of the EU’s supposedly inherent levelling up.

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That is why I have said for a long time upper management could also be replaced by a school leaver with a badic math skill. The axe should fall both sides.

No, and the cost of travel for most would more than cover electricity and gas for the day.

Just as within the UK the relative wealth of the south vs. the north is evidence of the failure of Tory ‘levelling up’! Freedom of movement doesn’t lead to complete equality - but does in the long term limit the extent of inequality.

Is it failure if they never intended any actual “levelling up”?

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Indeed - but then the lack of ambition, and lying about it, is the failure!