Lot of buzz around the gig economy or freelancing being the future of work but how applicable is this model to work which is more organic and less transactional and requires a lot of trust as a foundation for successful work delivery.
When I was an investment banking analyst back in 2003, there was huge culture of ‘face-time’ – hope you’re reading this and going ‘what’s that’ because I am hoping it doesn’t exist anymore. Essentially, face-time was someone monitoring how many hours you are in the office and the basic assumption was that the more hours you spend in the office, the more work you were doing – damn your individualistic efficiency!
I know – sounds bizzare! But wait, gets better – strategies to game around this concept included screensavers with excel model screenshots, leaving the office with your suit jacket on your chair with a 45 degree angle so colleagues and managers think you’re still around, or my personal favorite: emailing your director at like midnight with some forced update followed by another one at 4am – the impression goes out that you were working all night whereas the reality of those time slots was your entering and exiting a nightclub! Yes, god bless the Blackberry.
When I look back, just feels silly that I was even in the vicinity of such a culture.
Fast forward to 2018 – I was at a Wework location in Mumbai when this odd sight of a young guy working on two laptops simultaneously caught my eye. His name was Hamad.
While chatting, Hamad mentioned he is an Upwork freelancer and because Upwork captures random screenshots of his laptop when he is working on a project through their platform, he hesitates to do any personal work, including watching a Youtube video during lunch break, on that laptop – for those things he has the second laptop.
Took me some time to digest what I had heard.
You are in a new-age co-working space, working through a supposedly future-of-work platform, working remotely, doing the work you have taken up (so not thrusted upon you) – YET – you fear someone judging you based on how many hours you are working for! Is that not ironical to the nth level? You might argue I am biased given the vision with which we are building kaam.work as a much better alternative for distributed or remote work but honestly, the idea of kaam.work wasn’t even born when this interaction in July 2018 occurred.
Now, I completely get that a platform like Upwork is accountable to the client paying ‘by the hour’ for the work ‘transacted’ to the freelancer on the platform and therefore the screenshots of the freelancer’s laptops are proof that they actually worked for the hours being billed. However, I just can’t stop myself from thinking how this is a lot worse than what I faced in investment banking more than 15 years ago!
The italicized phrases of ‘by the hour’ and ‘transacted’ irritate me to a whole another level for skilled work that is fundamentally creative – subject for another blog 🙂