Can I make you some bucks?

how the net is transforming the way we work and earn

The friend-of-a–friend network September 28, 2008

You may recall that as part of this blog I wanted to set up an online employment agency for domestic workers in Grahamstown. And I’ve gotten as far as setting up a blog which, to my surprise, a few people found and posted comments on. None of these people were domestic workers, however. No surprises there.

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They were all people with internet access. The one is someone looking for a domestic worker – and this could be useful avenue to explore. The other a student, looking for work. And even someone in Uganda expressed interest in finding a job with the help of the blog.

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But this still hasn’t achieved much. I haven’t succeeded in creating a sustainable online social network for people who are ignored and excluded by the internet. Does this mean the internet is a space that discriminates? A space that only webworkers and those who effortlessly throw terms like 3G or GPRS into conversations can use to find employment?

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I think it certainly is an indication that the internet is a space that needs to be opened up and made to be more accessible. But that requires educating people about the internet and how it works. And if that isn’t difficult enough, in a place like South Africa there are the language barriers.

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I did phone a few of the domestic workers who had placed adverts on the notice boards at Pick ‘n Pay. They thought I was offering them a job. They couldn’t understand what I was trying to do. In fact, I even approached some community workers at a local community outreach centre to get some advice and a sense of how the community might react to my project. They too couldn’t quite grasp what I had in mind. And these are meant to be ‘technologically literate’ people.

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I’m starting to think perhaps certain types of employment are only made possible by the informal friend-of- friend network. Where you employ a certain domestic worker because your friend down the road only has good things to say about her and how she has never stolen or broken anything. Because face it, that’s how people are. No one wants to let some stranger loose in their house.

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But the nature of the internet and online social networks challenges these tried and tested friend-of-a friend networks. It opens what are localised, personal interactions which take between people who are generally friends to anyone. And for some social networks that works. But in a case like Grahamstown where it is not even a guarantee that every prospective employee will have access to the internet it is difficult to bypass this informal network.

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And maybe there is no need to. I was having tea with a friend the other day. She mentioned that she knew a really good domestic worker who was looking for work. And of course, as is customary in this network, went on to ask if I knew of someone who might consider employing her.

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I could just email the women who left a comment on my blog about needing a domestic worker. But I feel that would defeat the purpose of my online employment agency experiment. It would just be a good example of a friend-of-a-friend network. But I have to start someone.

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So, as a way forward I plan on approaching this domestic worker and trying to explain what I am doing. If she agrees I will then give her details to the women who posted a comment on the blog but will also post her details on the blog. And this is where the friend –of-a-friend network as well as the offline network comes in. I’m going to then promote the blog through my friend-of-friend networks and see where that takes me.

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If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I am all ears. In fact, I would love some suggestions.

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Can you count on your iPhone to protect you? September 3, 2008

I’ve always had a mental image of the type of woman who when thrown into the workplace is likely to be sexually harassed. You know the type. The ones who show too much cleavage. Whose French manicures make typing even the simplest sentence impossible. And it’s not that I think they deserve it. Or that on some subconscious level they’re asking for it. I guess it’s just my way of reassuring myself that that is one less thing I need to worry about when I get my first job.

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Because I certainly am not one of those girls. I fail to take myself seriously with even the lightest nail polish. So forget about the French manicure. And as for the cleavage, well let’s just say that’s something I’ll leave to the professionals. Those who wear wonderbras and still manage a graceful strut. So generally, I stay away from all this feminine paraphernalia. I keep it simple.

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But obviously I’m doing something wrong. I haven’t quite mastered the art of professional elusiveness. It was about 2 weeks ago. My department organised a networking function to mark the end of their careers fair. And in the true spirit of such schmooze-athons many of my fellow class mates handed out their CVs to these prospective employees.

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I felt a little sorry for them actually, the employees that is. Instead of waiters offering to pour them drinks or a taste of some exotic spring roll starter they got small talk with an accompanying CV shoved down their throats. And so it really didn’t surprise me that the wine seemed to disappear rather quickly.

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But that’s the tricky thing about these situations. There’s a very fine line which it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of when networking professionally. And to me, that line was crossed when one of the employees called me over to tell me that he couldn’t take his eyes off me. I guess I should feel flattered. That some media mogul noticed me. After all I’m just some jean and blouse wearing student. But then he followed me. Trailed me in his car when I left the department, actually. And yes the kind, well-meaning gentleman did offer me a lift home. But to me that’s crossing the line rather too boldly.

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But where to from here? It would be my word against his. You know how it goes. And nothing happened. Except for the whole line crossing thing. And while a part of me is tempted to write to his company I know I’ll look like the tattle-taler.

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And that’s why you should never leave home without your cellphone. Imagine if I caught all of this on my cellphone camera. There would be none of this his-word-against-mine stuff. And think of how easy it would be. All you need is an excuse to whip phone out of pocket. Something like thinking you heard your ring tone or wanting to check the time. And like that, a most useful surveillance tool enters the conversation.

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And it doesn’t end there. You can install Spyphone software on your cell phone that will allow you to covertly record conversations within close proximity to the phone. Useful but that’s not really thinking outside the box. Imagine if there was some sort of video surveillance that was able to capture these charming little experiences. A no mess no fuss solution that could potentially cut down on workplace harassment. With an estimated $3.2 billion being spent on surveillance devices in 2007 the options are endless:

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  • The Mobotix Q22 security camera offers 360 degree coverage and also allows you to zoom in on objects. It also comes with built-in microphone and speaker for two way communication.
  • You can go the Video Analytics route. Pricy and perhaps not suited for the workplace but this uses equipment that can detect changes in movement and any possible threats. This is being used in Chicago.
  • There’s the LIVEcam surveillance system which not only costs less than $300 but is SIM card enabled allowing you to dial in to see what is happening.
  • Not to practical but it may suit your office environment to go for a camera which is built into a book. Your co-workers will never know it’s there.

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Is all this surveillance meant to make us feel safer? If Big Brother was allowed into the workplace would it really make these spaces harassment free? I doubt it. Surveillance is a comforting idea if you ignore the impracticalities and there are many:

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Scotland Yard says that CCTVs help solve fewer than 3% of all crimes, while a study in San Francisco found that at best, criminals simply move out of camera range, while at worst they assume no one is watching.

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Technology can help innovate the working environment and working culture, turning us into travelling nomads with the latest gadgets. But sadly, that is where it ends. When it comes to dealing with harassment perhaps its best to rely on the good old fashioned pepper spray and leave the techno geeks to worry about more important things … like iPhones.

 

My life without Latitude August 23, 2008

My digs’ mate has a rather interesting morning ritual and coffee lovers may be shocked to hear that it doesn’t involve caffeine. In fact those grappling with caffeine-dependency will probably find this a useful caffeine-withdrawal coping mechanism. She certainly seems to get quite a kick out of it. And it’s really quite simple. All she does is count down the number of days we have left at university. And I swear it’s given her a spring in her step.

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See, we have a small whiteboard attached to outside of our fridge door and every morning she updates it. Currently we have 62days left as students. 62 days!!!!!! (Forgive my amateurish abuse of the exclamation mark) And it’s only now that I have stopped to think about what this innocent daily ritual means. Needless to say, panic has set in.

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I’m not too sure what I was expecting. I think in my mind I was looking forward to the end bit of the countdown. You know that part. Where the dramatic music starts building up tension and then the final countdown begins: 5 days. 4 days. 3 days. 2 days. 1 day. Lift off. Perhaps that’s how it was all worked out in my mind. I’d get the grand send off to some exotic destination armed with several cans of chickpeas and that all important slab of dark chocolate. And then I’d be ready. I’d be invincible. But then what? Chickpeas and dark chocolate to the rescue? Oh yes, they’d get me far. But they’re unlikely to get me a job.

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For the past week there have been several career workshops as well as a careers fair, which was held yesterday, at the journalism department at my university. All in the spirit of helping lost soon-to-be-graduates find themselves and a job in the process. And of course the predictable was emphasized. How you need a comprehensive CV with an accompanying cover letter, nothing flashy, colourful or scented. Plain. Professional. To the point.

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And then of course, no good career talk would be complete without mentioning the importance of networking. Yes, this is useful to know. But haven’t we moved beyond this? This talk of office jobs and CVs? For let’s face it, such a recruitment process is about landing the lucrative job so that you can work your way up to your own private corner office. Complete with a view and the humdrum of 9 to 5.

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Well, no thank you. Not for me. I think it’s an outdated way of thinking about your first job. Why must it be an office job? First prize is not the office job. Not in today’s working environment where the telecommuting possibilities seem endless.

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At the careers fair, I was tempted to approach some of the companies and offer them my services as a freelancer. Or is that a bit presumptuous?

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But you see, there is a reason careers fairs are still held even though employers find themselves bushwhacked by the shmooze of graduates. And why prospective employees attend them, no make that flock to them in obsequious droves clutching that all important CV. You won’t believe it, but it was Dell’s announcement that they are releasing a new laptop model that made me realise this.

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See, Dell’s new E range of laptops, part of the Latitude family, offers up to 19 hours of battery life. And when the battery does run low you can use the high speed charger which means that within an hour 80% of the battery life will be recovered.

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But wait, there’s more. This range of laptops has a built in function known as Latitude On. This allows you to switch between two different processors cutting out lag time as information is processed. The Intel Core 2 Duo processor is used for Windows but for surfing the web you have the option of switching to the Latitude On system with its Linux operating system that runs separately to the laptops CPU.

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And then I think of my Celeron laptop and how it plods along struggling to process even the simplest multitasking session. And I’m left thinking perhaps I should have handed my CV out to people at this career fair because it’s clear that I just don’t cut it. I don’t have what it takes to be part of the new emerging workforce.

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Dell calls them Digital Nomads. But they go by many other names: Bedouin workers , Digital Bohemians. Call it what you will, these are IT workers, generally, who make a living without being tied to the office relying instead on wireless connectivity and other technology. These are individuals who are unlikely to attend careers fair. Why would they care about things like internship programs or the ethos of company x. For such workers, employment isn’t about making a good impression or how firm your handshake is. It’s about getting the work done. And if that happens at 3am over a glass of chocolate milk then so be it.

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But of course, there is a catch to all of this :

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Neo-nomads and digital bedouins sound very exciting, but we mustn’t forget that this will only ever be a viable way of working for a small, skilled and privileged minority of people.

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These kind of workers are often self-starters. The entrepreneurial type. And one of the most important things you need in order to be part of this class of new workers is access to the latest technology. The rest of us, the plebs should just stick with office jobs. Of course you don’t necessarily need one of Dell’s new laptops to be a Digital Nomad. But you have to have the latest technology and you need to keep that technology up to date.

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Ok, so I did approach some of the companies at the careers fair about doing freelance work. They seemed reluctant. And all I could do was nod, smile and politely move on next set of surprised eyes as I told them about my plans for next year.

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See my bag of tricks consists of the following : one dying Celeron that would never be able to support Photoshop or Adobe Auditon or anything from the Adobe family to be honest. A digital camera which doesn’t have AV or TV modes. A voice recorder which could be my saving grace. And a cellphone that while cute, compact and impressive-looking is not compatible with many of the latest mobile applications. Much to my dismay it can’t even support Fring. So where does that leave me? In the same place as most graduates, I guess: with a CV and a place at the end of the unemployment queue.

 

Something to inspire on a Monday morning August 18, 2008

Filed under: Work culture — Nicole @ 7:31 am
Tags:

Because it’s a Monday and you probably struggled getting out of bed.

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Because it’s Monday and you find yourself having accomplished nothing and wondering what happened to the weekend.

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Because Mondays seem to often go very wrong and no amount of coffee, or in my case hot chocolate, is strong enough to get you through it all.

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Because of all the work you need to do.

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Because of your full inbox which you are sure you remember emptying on Friday.

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Because on top of it all you may have to deal with one of the following: a bad hair day, PMS, toothache or milk you realised was off only once you’d added it to your tea.

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Because for those of us who don’t telecommute, there is something special about a Monday.

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Because it’s a Monday, you may need some inspiration:

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  • Annoying coworker an anonymous space to vent about the charming people you have no choice but to be polite to.
  • Don’s Boss Page is bound to make you smile and may even make even help you cyberslack. Yes, you guessed it. It’s a mock spread sheet for those awkward moments when your boss decides to check up on you.
  • Overheard in the office a necessary site for those moments of sheer brilliance which must be acknowledged.
  • You can download Office Wars – a mobile game which takes place in a Seafood restaurant and you get to choose which employee you’d like to be. It’s all about simulating office dynamics except now you are the one with the final say.
  • Maybe you want to liven things up a bit. After all it is a Monday. Ever thought of playing a prank on your co-workers?

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Because it’s a Monday, maybe it’s not a bad idea to indulge in some cyberslacking.

 

Why it pays to be a slacker August 17, 2008

Filed under: Work culture — Nicole @ 7:02 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Today , for the first time in a long time I felt like a school girl complete with carefree giggle and that all important packet of chocolate coated raisins. And it had nothing to do with tying my hair in pig-tails or shining Toughees weary from too much hop-scotch. It was because after much pleading and moaning my 7 class mates and I convinced my lecturer to let us go on a BP run. Don’t bother looking it up. BP run is not something you’ll find in a dictionary. But mention it to just about anyone in Grahamstown and they will have an understanding of the adventure that awaits those who embark on one of these infamous runs.

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See, in Grahamstown very few shops remain open at night. In fact, after 9 o’clock it is only at BP, a small 24-hour convenience store, where one can find the necessary snacks, treats and things to nibble on. But visiting BP after hours is never just about what you can buy. It’s about the break. About strolling up one of the store’s three very short isles, immersed in the world of retail therapy suspending any thought of work.

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And so that is what my classmates and I embarked on. Okay, so we didn’t actually go to BP. There was no need. It was still morning and other stores were open. But it gave us a bit of a break from our seminar. And so for about 15 minutes I got to think about whether I wanted apple or peach juice to go with the packet of chocolate coated raisins I had picked out. Then it was back to the labs where the lecture continued.

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You probably think we are a bunch of slackers. But you try sitting cooped up in the artificial environment that is our lab for three hours with only the odd 5 or 10 minute break. I imagine you’d be begging to go on a BP run too. I can tell you I certainly felt more alive and I doubt I am the only one.

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For those of us we aren’t lucky enough to telecommute it’s important to schedule some BP run time into your work schedule. And no, I am not joking. There is evidence which suggests that your working environment can affect your productivity. The 2008 ITWeb salary survey indicates that the second most important thing for job satisfaction after being challenged at work is the job environment.

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And employers need to keep this in mind for often the success of their business depends on the people they employ. Which makes me wonder, why employers would deny access to Facebook and other social networking sites? Yes, some employers actually use Sophos’ controlled applications, for example, to block or limit internet access to social networking sites.

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OK, so there are employees who may sit at their desks from 9-5 doing nothing but updating their Facebook status or perhaps searching for porn. These are individuals known as cyberslackers and they should be dealt with. But there must be a more constructive way of curbing cyberslacking without an outright ban on social networking sites.

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See what employers fail to understand is that social networking sites, when used in moderation, are the best type of BP run. Think about it. A virtual BP run which revives without the mess or fuss of leaving the office. It seems counter-intuitive to ban sites which can stimulate creativity and this is unlikely to solve the problem. According to some research published by Ohio State University :

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Just as very short naps have been demonstrated to revive mental activity, perhaps short virtual breaks for a quick hand of solitaire, a note to a friend, an exploration of the online deal of the day, or a check on a sports score might refresh and invigorate many individuals’ work and productivity.

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Interestingly enough, this research paper from Ohio State University also indicates that it is higher-status employees who are more likely do engage in cyberslacking because they aren’t supervised and have more work-privacy. It’s therefore ironic for those in more senior positions to be policing other employees. And all these bans on internet access do is foster an environment of mistrust something that’s not conducive to being productive.

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But employers need to realise that allowing employees to access sites like Facebook is not just about virtual BP runs or company camaraderie. Oh, it’s so much more than that. Social networking sites, like Facebook, are likely to become essential tools for the office of the 21st century. These tools allow employees to network with others from different companies – and that could come in handy. And then there is the question of being with-it. See, allowing your employees to use social-networking tools means they won’t be left behind. And some companies, like KPMG , are starting to see the light. KPMG’s director of marketing, communications and corporate social investment, Carl Ballot says:
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Initially, we blocked access to these Web sites over concerns of security and productivity loss. However, we are seeing a new generation entering our workforce, which interacts in a whole new way. They are a product of a changing world, which we are eager to recognise and adapt to.

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So it shouldn’t surprise you to discover that over the last two weeks, in the UK alone there has been a 500% increase in streaming traffic as office workers watch the Olympics online. The modern office is not just about the humdrum of work. And employees need to face facts: distractions and procrastination are now part of the modern 9-5 working day. But have no fear. I managed to it quite successfully. Yes, I ate my chocolate coated raisins, drank my juice, took lecture notes and even did some IM (instant messaging) on the side. And in all honesty, I’d recommend taking such a BP run to an office worker any day.

 

Why I won’t be leaving the office anytime soon August 6, 2008

I wish I could tell you that my days are spent basking the sun as I paint my toe-nails a cherry red and read The God of Small things. Or that I spend them hitch-hiking from one corner café to the next unknown destination. But the banal truth is that I spend many hours in a computer lab which is covertly hidden in the Rhodes University Journalism department. In fact, it’s so covert that you could easily have worked in this department for years without ever knowing of its existence.

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See, it’s the unlabelled lab. The one that got away. The one that escaped the department’s obsessive labelling. This department is big on labelling, doing so with precision and political correctness. But, nonetheless there it is. Hidden down a little corridor is my lab with its reliable air conditioning that I now co-ordinate my outfit to suit. And then there are the several rows of florescent lights that make you feel as though your day somehow got frozen at midday. Don’t let me get started on these lights.

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What a perfectly acclimatised, self-sustaining ecosystem, don’t you think? OK, so you may need to add some Vit D capsules as you probably won’t be getting much sunlight in these labs. See, there aren’t any windows, something which amuses me.

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So there I sit. In front of a computer. Tucked away in a lab hidden down a little corridor in a section of the journalism department which few have probably ever noticed.

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I’m sure you are dying for me to get to the point. To stop rambling. But for this blog post, I want you to have a sense of where I sit as I write this. Try to imagine it. There is the constant drone of the air-conditioning which after a few hours begins to sound a bit like the ebb and flow of the sea. A reassuring constant. Then there are the clicking, clacking and odd tapping of keyboards as work gets done. Irritating but somehow this begins to sound like the comforting chatter among friends.

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If you ignore my melodrama you’ll probably find you won’t have to try too hard to imagine such a working environment. Isn’t that what the typical 9-5 office space looks, sounds and feels like? I know I certainly didn’t grow up thinking that a day at the office would involve me lying on the beach with a laptop and some suntan lotion.

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But for some, working is something which takes place wherever they choose. Anywhere, except a dreary office or lab. It’s called telecommuting or remote working something which is becoming increasingly attractive with the advent of the internet. And all you need is laptop and internet connectivity.

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Research from the Pennsylvania State University suggests that telecommuting can increase productivity by giving employees more control over how they spend their time and helping them to maintain a work-family balance. And, of course remote working has been linked to a boost in morale. Remote working can also fit in with a company’s green agenda by cutting employees petrol consumption , decreasing traffic consumption and cutting down on redundant office space.

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Sounds great doesn’t it? Working as and when you want. That was until Microsoft entered the picture. It is developing software which can be used by employers to monitor not only the productivity of staff members working remotely but their physical wellbeing. The system:

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would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.

Who would want to be linked to their computer via wireless sensors that detects when you are stressed and unable to cope? As that is what this new software would entail. I know I certainly wouldn’t. I think I’d rather remain cooped up in this lab.

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For those of you who aren’t put off there are employment agencies online which deal specifically with telecommuting jobs. And there are some novel jobs available to you as a willing telecommuter not all of which involve Microsoft’s new monitoring software. I came across this , the Best Colon Cleansing, a blog about … well Colon Cleansing that is looking for people willing to spend some time on the loo doing what is so innately human : pooing. The only snag is you have to blog about it:

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This is just a fun colon cleansing blog that is looking for its next poop colon cleansing star.

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Perhaps that isn’t your thing. Have no fear. The possibilities seem endless when it comes to telecommuting. There are groups of telecommuters who refer to themselves as New Nomads .These are individuals who are not only sick of the predictability of 9-5 but love to travel. And so work happens on the go, while travelling and experiencing the world. Work is something which fits into your schedule; it happens wherever they happen to be:

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There is an immense feeling of freedom when you realize you are not tied geographically to your income source. The idea that I could work on a beach in Thailand as easily as in the center of Paris or traversing Canada is incredible.

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But here I am. Still in the labs. And it’s not because I have a persecution complex. See, the nomadic life sounds inviting. It is even made to sound minimalistic and some refer to themselves as Laptop Hobos. I have to chuckle at that for one thing these itinerant workers are not is hobos. You see, you need money and quite a bit of it at that to be a travelling laptop hobo. And don’t be fooled, becoming a regular stay at home telecommunicator can also be expensive and is not without its drawbacks. So, I think I’ll just stay put.

 

When your office becomes a stranger’s lounge July 29, 2008

There are some things that are just trendy and really shouldn’t be questioned. Like ‘doing coffee’. Ever wondered why it’s called that when often it’s tea or perhaps a double thick chocolate milkshake with extra chocolate sprinkles that people order? And I’m certainly guilty of that. Me, someone who doesn’t even drink the stuff, still manages to ‘do’ coffee on the odd occasion.

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And in this world of all things trendy where tea-drinkers ‘do’ coffee it’s time to make room for the coffee-shop lurkers. For they are the latest in all things trendy. And we’ve all spotted at least one of these lurkers. They are the people who sit alone and are not surreptitious about it, how can they be?

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A coffee-shop lurker will be found accompanied only by laptop or any other portable desk item and that one cup of coffee that seems to be on auto-top up. And this is what these coffee-shop lurking individuals call work? Sitting in coffee shops all day.

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For someone who ‘does coffee’, this was an opportunity not to be missed so I decided to try it out for myself. It was a Friday and I had some work, nothing too taxing, nothing I thought couldn’t be done while I sipped on some Lipton Lemon Ice tea. So off I went to Mad Hatters, one the local coffee shops, to claim my corner table.

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My lap-top has seen me through many assignments. But the truth is that it is a veteran with its own imposing black carry case that really could be carrying anything. Few would probably guess a laptop. But that’s step one on how to be a successful coffee-shop lurker: make a grand entry. Be noticed. No coffee-shop lurker wants to just fade into the background.

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So, things were going well. I had the imposing, briefcase-like bag which caught people’s attention when I began unzipping it – it’s difficult to miss. Then there was the loud greeting sound my laptop makes when I turn it on. More attention for me. This was almost too simple.

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But my trendiness lasted just under 2 hours. See, not only did I leave my laptop battery at home, a huge coffee-shop lurker faux pas, but I would look up every time someone walked into or out of or past the shop. To be honest, any movement distracted me.

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Maybe that was because I wasn’t doing it right. It seems those in the know, those who are ultra trendy, don’t bother with coffee shops. They simply rent space in other people’s living rooms. Sure it costs more than a coffee. But it beats renting an office and on top of it all you get to do your work while in the comfort of a stranger’s living room. And if you’re lucky you may even get a cup of coffee:

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Coworking space for laptop workers in Cape Town, CBD

Includes Wi-Fi, desk space, lounge, kitchen, coffee, fax, printer, Philippe Starck Louis Ghost chairs. Available 7:30am to 5pm. R1500 per person per month.

Panoramic city views from Signall Hill through to Table Mountain. Plenty of street-side parking. Secure parking available on a monthly basis. Dunkley Square is 50m away and there are some fantastic cafes (Sage) and restaurants (Aubergine) within 100m. The National Gallery and gardens are 100m down the road. It’s a lovely place to be. Very central. Very inspiring.

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It’s called co-working or co-location and it’s the latest working lifestyle from those who brought you procrastination. Okay, perhaps that isn’t fair. Many who practice it claim to be very productive because of the environment which co-working allows for.

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Co-working marks a move back to the office. But the interesting thing about these offices is that they are nomadic and make-shift ranging from people’s lounges to cafes with good Wi-Fi.

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They also sprout up as and when they are needed with various wikis which help organize co-working meet-ups. Then there are services like Jelly which describes itself as “a semi-weekly work-together” where people are encouraged to set up casual working sessions called Jellies. There are Jellies happening all over the world. There is also Cream Cheese which functions in a similar way to Jelly. Let’s hope these co-working sessions have more than food on their minds. Another interesting service is Cubes and Crayons which provides both co-working and child care space. Now you can work flexi hours and still find time to spend with your kids.

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Co-working functions in a similar way to a sewing or knitting group. You come. You work on your own project. Perhaps you grab lunch, get some encouragement and a little nudge in the right direction from someone in the group who may have more specialized skills than you. And then you leave. No mess. No fuss. And no office politics.

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Some are calling this SWOT (Solos working alone together). To them, this work culture is:

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a reminder that while we each pursue on own projects and engagements, that we are not on this journey alone. While we retain the freedom and flexibility of working solo, it is great to have others to bounce ideas off of, to celebrate wins, to commiserate about setbacks, to plot pitches. In short, to function as virtual coworkers without the inter-office politics.

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Doesn’t this sound great? No more 9 to 5. No more air-conditioned offices. But I’m still not convinced. Okay, so my experience as a coffee shop lurker was bound to fail. Next time I will invite others to join me. I’ll be more social. Maybe even do coffee.

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Or maybe I should just join Less Distracted, a co-working group. They have an open space and that might help keep my focused but still trendy. Perhaps you should be doing the same. For it’s likely that your working lifestyle will change over the next few years and that co-working is going to feature quite prominently as part of it.