Archive for julio 2020

NOTE: I am using “he” throughout the post for the sake of simplicity, you can substitute it by “she” and it reads exactly the same.

The sudden coming of age of teleworking due to the Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to  many complaints. Some of them focus on the fact that teleworking, as it has been implemented, creates very stressful situations. The fact is that, since it was implemented as a response to the situation and not based on a planned voluntary assumption of the system, the teleworker found that, at home, life goes on. Home is not an office, home is a living entity.

How weird! The teleworker discovered all of a sudden that in the house there is more activity than what he imagined when comfortably working at the office. There are rooms to clean and beds to be made. There are children to attend to and help with schoolwork. There are questions from the teenager that need an answer NOW! There is shopping to be done and meals to be prepared. There are …  fill the gaps.

All those tasks were fulfilled by someone other than himself. Now he is in the middle of all that activity, and this intrudes on his teleworking activity.

That somebody has been using their multitask abilities. That somebody, who in past was the mother of the household, has gotten used to performing a myriad of tasks at the same time without any problems.

My point is that the worker who moves into teleworking should develop multitasking abilities. He should be able to move seamlessly from the computer to baby feeding. There are moments in which a certain degree of concentration is needed, and no external interference is welcome. But I hardly think that concentration is needed 8 hours a day. The teleworker has to get used to moving easily from office work to household work, that work that was done by somebody else while he was comfortably (sorry – sweating) in the office.

Stop complaining and learn to incorporate into your life, and enjoy, those tasks that are needed for your own wellbeing and of those of your household.

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“Teleworking is here to stay” has become a repeated catchphrase of those gurus dedicated to predicting the future. You can substitute “teleworking” for “telemedicine”. But there is more than one thing wrong with the simplification that the catchphrase implies.

To start with, both working systems have been with us for decades. The broader use of both systems during the Covid-19 pandemic has been prompted by need, not by choice. Doctors and workers have been forced to use it in order to avoid physical contact with patients or peers; it was not an alternative, it was a must.

Most of them had to get used to the new system in a matter of days, if not hours. They lacked proper training and, mostly for teleworkers, they had to provide their own equipment and internet connection. Again, it was not an alternative; it was a take it or take it.

For teleworking and telemedicine to be included permanently in our everyday life, it has to be by choice. And for that, many things have to change in the way work is organized and supervised.

Nowadays, timing is, in most cases, the yardstick of how work is supervised. Doctors and workers have their working hours contractually regulated. Their supervisors make every effort to make sure that those hours are fulfilled, rather than controlling objectives. These are very rarely set and only instituted in the very upper echelons of the working pyramid.

In both teleworking and telemedicine, productivity becomes the most important aspect. Productivity is measured against the accomplishment of objectives. And objectives are difficult to set in most cases. It was easy for manual work; so many meters of weaving, so many bolts. In telemedicine, would you set a number of patients assisted as an objective regardless of the complexity of the illness? Of course not. Would you set as an objective the number of reports, regardless of the quality of the report? Of course not.

This is the main change in the way work has to be organized in case we adopt teleworking and telemedicine as a real alternative to on-site working. Supervision has to drastically change from working-hours-based to working-objectives-based. A real challenge to the working system.

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