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‘Homework’ takes on a totally new meaning … for adults!

Friday, March 19, 2021

The global energy giant BP has told around 25,000 of its staff that work from home is now permanent. This is confirmation that ‘home-work’ is now globally locked in and not a temporary Covid ‘thing’.

BP is selling offices and moving to smaller premises as staff move to working two days and more from home. This is evidence of a working revolution. It’s a revolution that will throw the legal, academic, tax and political work-regulation establishment into utter confusion.

It makes the recent UK court decision to declare Uber drivers to be a ‘little bit’ employees combined with destructive self-employed tax laws, to be dangerous for the UK economy. It makes the Californian law making self-employment illegal look like a wall of sand trying to hold back an incoming tide. It makes the Victorian government’s agenda to outlaw self-employment look plain dumb.

The fact is that home-work will result in a productivity boom that will be difficult for statisticians to measure. How do you measure output per hours worked when someone is writing a report at home, stops, puts on the washing, returns to writing, stops, hangs out the washing, checks emails, heads off to collect the children from school and has several business phone calls in the car driving to pick up the children? How to you measure the huge time saving when the ‘commute’ to work is from your bedroom to the corner office in the spare bedroom?

But these are the productivity ‘realities’ that self-employed people have enjoyed and delivered for years. This is the self-employed work/life ‘balance’ truth which is now being realized by employees at BP and will predictably move through the corporate sector.

But here comes the push-back.

Property investors are worried about their CBD skyscraper investments.

Corporate power junkie managers wonder how they will ‘control’ staff.

Work safety officers wonder about what happens when people injure themselves at home when working.

Accountants can’t work out how to monitor people on hourly based pay rates.

‘Exploitation!’ scream unions and ‘worker rights’ academics!

It’s all nonsense of course. The incoming tide is largely located in the knowledge-based side of economic activity which is shifting from ‘hours’ to ‘results’ assessment of work. It’s been driven forward by technology for two decades and more, but Covid has given it a great kick along.

What’s happening is the disintegration of the specific legally defined ‘employment’ relationship.

The reality of self-employment based on self-control and payment on results butts up against the social and legal ‘employment’ assumptions. Employment as a generic term is looking more and more like self-employment as time-based pay is replaced by results-based remuneration.

The post Covid home-work revolution is pushing this trend harder. As more people work from home, even if not full-time, results-based remuneration becomes the logical outcome. Hours-based remuneration becomes awfully complicated.

We can probably be sure that this revolution in home-work, ‘employment’ (looking like self-employment) will be a major productivity booster.

A slightly longer version of this post is available here.

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