Will Telework Overcome The Shirking Excuse?

Will Telework Overcome The Shirking Excuse?

One of the more boring excuses used to block staff from working from home is the idea that people will slack off if they’re not supervised. That attitude will change eventually, but it’s going to take time.

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At a recent forum on teleworking (which I’ve already written about once in relation to contracting issues),Intel chief evangelist Steve Brown weighed in on the issue. Intel itself encourages staff to work remotely, but the problem still arises:

We’ve all worked with shirkers, so we all have these natural defences where we’re looking out for co-workers who are not pulling their weight. I see it even in companies like Intel. We’ve been results-oriented for some time — at the end of the year, it’s “here’s all the things I’ve delivered” — and yet people still like to see their colleagues in the office. It’s the trust element.

The most important point there is arguably the first one: “We’ve all worked with shirkers.” Forcing people into a fixed location won’t automatically make them more productive. If you can be distracted by making coffee at home, you can be distracted by making coffee at work, or slacking off with your mobile, or staring at a spreadsheet like a zombie bureaucrat.

Brown argues that this will evolve, but it will take a while: “Some of it is generational, but managers are going to have to get over this. If they want to attract and retain the best talent, they’re going to have to move into that discomfort zone.

“People will get more comfortable with it over time; it’s a self-sustaining thing. As people deliver results, they’ll get more rope. It’s something that will change over time, but it’s not going to change rapidly.” Has it changed in your workplace? Tell us in the comments.


  • The whole thing bemuses me. Do companies employ people to get a certain amount of work done every month or to sit at a desk and be busy? If you can’t tell if someone’s doing the former without observing the latter I’d suggest the role that person is fulfilling is not particularly useful and you’d better off getting rid of it completely.

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