Monday, 12 April 2010

Bring Back the Gentlemans Club

Working at Google seems to be an attractive proposition - free food, lots of colourful spheres everywhere, smart people. Its the sort of club I could cope with being a member of. But consultancy also appeals - working on my own schedule, for myself, total flexibility of lifestyle. A club with only one member, me.

I fully expect the IT industry (and indeed many white collar industries) to move over to consultancy model (or at least a telecommuting model). It makes sense. It's ecomental and everything. Once the current generation of senior managers move on and today's twenty and thirty year olds take their place, we'll see it more and more.

But working from home misses out all the benefits of having a place to work at - the enforced social interaction of a job. While you gain freedom, you lose all the fringe benefits... and you get cooped up in a place that its nice to get out from every so often.

The answer: lets reinvent the gentleman's club.

Not so fast: "what about co-working venues", you might ask. Co-working is a good first step. It gives you a workplace. It gives you people.

But when I take a job, the job self-selects the sort of people I work with. They are smart. They know their stuff. They are reasonably non-annoying (and I'm annoyed by pretty much everyone).

At a co-working venue, anyone who can afford the price of renting a desk can be your work buddy. The only selection category is, potentially, income.

And the co-working venue doesn't provide all the helpful features of an office. Nowhere to post your mail. No canteen to eat in at lunchtime. No rooms for meetings.

These are exactly the sort of features that gentleman's clubs had. Clubs attracted a certain type... and applicants who weren't that type were back-balled. Clubs had lots of fringe benefits - you had a bar, food was served, rooms were available.

I'm not suggesting we all sit in big chairs by a fireside, drinking snifters of whisky and making bets about how quickly we can travel around the world (although I'm sure there would be a club to attract the likes of Gorman, Wallace and Hawkes), and for people like me in the IT industry, I'm sure many of them would feel more like Google. Or Microsoft. Because what people want from their workplace, and what people want from their work are two different things.

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