back to article Vodafone gets less flexible on flexible working Ts&Cs for own staff

An April Fool's Day joke has come early for Vodafone teleworkers, who are facing a clampdown on their own flexible working conditions from the start of next month. The telco sells the Better Way of Working (BWOW) “solution” to customers - a mix of tabs, remote access and device management systems. This is supposed to make …

  1. Dwarf Silver badge

    Shirking from home

    Its a good job that most companies have realised that it matters more about what you deliver, rather than where you sit and that those who really do work from anywhere deliver more over a wider time frame than the 9-5 clock watchers who just coast a desk Monday to Friday whilst shuffling papers here and there and trying to look busy when people come past.

    The only real issue are the remote workers who don't actually produce any output, hence the expression shirking from home, but they are generally the ones that don't do anything in the office either, so measuring output is a consistent way of seeing who's good value in their role, irrespective of where they sit.

    How you measure productivity is the big issue that nobody seems to have properly defined, is it how many documents you pump out; the quality of any documentation; customer satisfaction; how many calls people handled; the number of hours sat in meetings or the output from those meetings ?

    This is because it varies person to person depending on their position and role, so like the location you work from, one size doesn't fit all. Companies who realise that flexible working is important will generally attract better people.

    1. paulf Silver badge

      Re: Shirking from home

      It also requires a good manager who knows his/her team members well, can spot the difference between activity and productivity, and knows the difference between "productivity" and useful results. Knowledge of the job, the tasks it requires and the most beneficial outputs means a manager can spot the most valuable to an organisation even if they don't appear to be productive by simple measures. It also means they can spot someone gaming the system - for example if productivity is measured by calls answered you need to spot the difference between someone dropping calls after a few minutes regardless simply to hit the productivity metric, compared to someone who efficiently but patiently talks the caller through the solution such that the caller goes from flustered and bamboozled to delighted.

      Unfortunately the key thing in all of that is a good manager.

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: Shirking from home

        You can kind of see how this came about. They just looked at stats of attendence and used that as 'evidence'.

        What this shows is the lack of real managerial insight at Vodafone at the moment. Watch the slippery slope...

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Shirking from home

          You can kind of see how this came about. They just looked at stats of attendence and used that as 'evidence'.

          Well from the article it seems that they simply walked around the offices and noticed the empty desks and applied the logic: why are we paying for home/flexible working when we have all this under-utilised office space...

      2. Oh Matron!

        Re: Shirking from home

        To misquote Fergal Sharkey:

        "And a good *manager* these days is hard to find.True love, the lasting kind"

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Shirking from home

      You say "most companies have realized it matters more about what you deliver", but a month ago you would have listed IBM and Vodafone amongst those companies. Maybe this is the start of a trend, and those two are just at the forefront?

      The problem I see is what about people who were hired on from day one as a remote worker, and don't live near an office or if they do the manager and teammates are dispersed widely. If you accepted a job knowing that the nearest site was hours away but didn't care as you'd rarely or never go there, it is a problem if you are now expected to show up there on a daily basis. Or even if it is just down the road, what's the point of going there if you will be sitting at a cubicle not interacting with anyone in person because you don't work with anyone near you, just alongside them? Is there going to be someone in the office whose job it is to check attendance and report back to everyone's manager? If not, how is your manager going to know you aren't working in the office if he works at a different location? I guess being the one who always tattled on classmates in grade school is the prerequisite for that job.

      For all its flaws and callousness, at least IBM said they'd need to work at one of a few main sites, so presumably people will actually work alongside teammates and their actual manager will probably see them on a daily basis.

    3. wind in the trousers

      Re: Shirking from home

      Re "Its a good job that most companies have realised that it matters more about what you deliver," it appears Vodafone has forgotten this lesson. Someone issues a dictate and all must fall in-line.

      UK isnt producing enough so that must be the reason. People work in virtual teams - with email - phone messaging skype - you dont need to be sat in the same building - in fact - you very rarely are in same location as those you are dealing with. In short it wont change anything - it will only make matters worse.

      Summary - Vodafone is burying it's head in the sand instead of dealing with the real issues - poor product set - lack of defintion of said sets - slooow delivery and lack of ownership and flexibility

  2. Warm Braw Silver badge

    How management works

    (a) Shit, our revenues are shrinking, let's save costs by reducing office space and making the staff work from premises they pay for

    (b) Shit, our revenues are still shrinking, it must be because we sent the staff home. Let's pack them back into the reduced office space.

    (c) Shit, our revenues are still shrinking and half our staff have left. Maybe we could offer them flexible working to improve retention.

  3. James 51 Silver badge

    Smacks of managers who can't handle staff working from home and their need to micromanage the staff. No doubt this will end well </scarcasim>.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      There you are... spot on. Many managers, especially in call centers, use staff to snitch on each other plus the so-called "productivity tools" of seeing who's logged in, how many calls, etc. Quality isn't important as long as they are in control and can manage everyone and everything down to and including restroom/bog time.

      There's also the observation that many of the younger folks don't have a work ethic (I've seen a lot of that in the last years) where they come in late, take breaks etc. longer than allowed and don't carry their "share" of the load. Then again, there's a lot of older workers in that same category.

      It is a problem and no cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all solution will work. Managers need to know their people and their job in depth and that goes from the top all the way down to team leaders (below actual management).

  4. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Do as I sell, not as I do !!!

  5. paulf Silver badge

    Vodafone app privacy

    Firstly I apologise for this being partly OT but it's relevant to Vodafone UK so I'll throw it out there anyway.

    Recently the Vodafone UK iOS app has started demanding detailed (i.e. GNSS) location data and turning this off (as is possible in the iOS privacy settings) means the app refuses to work. Now optionally giving the app location data means it can offer other functions (e.g. it can locate a nearby Wifi hot spot) but for something that is there primarily to report your usage to date and tell you how much your last bill was demanding detailed location data seems overkill.

    The network will know the handset location anyway but only down to which cell it's in and that's necessary for the network to operate - it isn't necessary for the app to operate. (Yes, I know the network can get a more accurate location if the handset is within range of multiple cells but it's still going to struggle to get the location accuracy of GNSS).

    I don't know if things are the same in the Android equivalent but IME Android apps tend to demand every permission anyway regardless of what they do.

    1. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: Vodafone app privacy

      the Vodafone UK iOS app

      Sorry, I don't understand your comment because you don't explain what this app does. I assume it's not just a wrapper for their website where you can read self-help tech support rather than engaging and expensive human, or buy data allowance top-ups and such?

      1. paulf Silver badge

        Re: Vodafone app privacy

        @ Tom Paine

        It's an app for tracking your usage (voice minutes/SMS/data) and seeing your current bill status (monthly charge, additional usage etc) as alluded to in my org post "...something that is there primarily to report your usage to date and tell you how much your last bill was..."

        iTunes link

    2. Vince

      Re: Vodafone app privacy

      Yep I noticed this too.

      Moaned at them on twitter, got the usual boilerplate stuff and a suggestion I should just accept it, and finally one suggesting I just use the web site instead.

      Fortunately I only updated the app on one device, the rest still have access without this issue. Poor show Vodafone.

      1. paulf Silver badge

        Re: Vodafone app privacy

        @ Vince "Yep I noticed this too."

        It's good to know I'm not the only one. I haven't updated but TOH has which is how I found out in time. Same experience as you - an extended twitter discussion with all sorts of excuses, "[mandatory slurping your detailed location data via the app] makes your data usage more accurate" being the best/most staggering. It took two days for them to finally admit they don't know (I was bored and wasn't going to let them off easy with excuses like that).

        I know these days we're just expected to bend over and hope the big boys have lubed up first when it comes to privacy but when the OS offers ways to fine tune your privacy settings it annoys me when app writers subvert this by saying, "give us everything or the app doesn't work".

  6. Tom Paine Silver badge

    The telco sells the Better Way of Working (BWOW) “solution” to customers - a mix of tabs, remote access and device management systems. This is supposed to make staff more productive, use office space more efficiently, and cut CO2 emissions.

    I'd've thought smoking tabs would be BAD for CO2 emissions, on account of all that oxidisation of organic matter.

    Unless they're tabs of acid?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration!

    Yeah yeah, trusted and good employees do the work whether at home or in the office, but they do more at home, etc etc. Sure, for some businesses or job roles where individual/lone working is not an issue, this may be true, but likely the vast majority of job functions/roles need (or benefit from) some kind of collaboration.

    Yes, there is a multitude of video conferencing and text chat options out there, which help for short-term remote stints, but they are no substitute for in-person face to face interaction.

    A previous employer, Oracle, implemented and encouraged an optional home-working policy, which decimated the office (I was one of the few left full-time in the office having done home working before and missed the collaborative aspect), people wouldn't see eachother for months (if their in-office days frequently missed), and teamwork and general productivity took a dive, so was reversed after about 18 months. The other supposed advantage of being able to save on office/desk space never came about, as permanent desks were merely converted to hot desks - you still had to keep them in place in case your remote people did come in.

    Now I'm the one in management, I'm all for allowing my team to work from home on occasion if needed (at most 4/5 times a month), assuming they're trustworthy. But then again, I hired them, so they are :)

    Anon, because I don't want my login be associated with the Big Red Borg.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration!

      A lot depends on what you are doing...

      When I worked at Vdf on an International project, with all the collaboration, consultations etc. the number of people in any single office on any one day was highly variable. Having 'spare' desk capacity meant that we could plan (typically at short notice) our frequent get together's around the needs of the project, not of facilities management...

      So I can see this change creating many unexpected headaches and irritations, as 'visitors' can't get hot desk access, meeting rooms always in demand so none available when you actually need one...

    2. wind in the trousers

      Re: Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration!

      Have to wonder how this affects Vodafone sales???

      Web site talks about "75% of employees said flexible working boosts their job satisfaction, 72% said it improved work-life balance, and 54% said they were more productive." and this flies in face of it.

      I have worked flexibly for over 20 years - I can work from a costa - home - car - train or home base. Majority of people I deal with are not in my local office so makes no different to myself or people in same role.

      Now Vodafone are a) making my day longer b) increasing my costs c) making me less flexible.

      Good will; going out of my way and working odd hours just went out the window.

      Great move Vodafone

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A curious paradoxical definition of "flexible"

    sounds like:-

    You will work from home sometimes

    you are not allowed to know which days month to month

    It doesn't matter what your role/project need

    We dare you to plan childcare, doctors appointments, family crises around our arbitrary policy.

    Baffles me entirely and I don't even work there. But passing their office from time to time I can see the traffic and its not good. Flexibility should be, within reasonable limits, down to operational managers and project needs. I agree its good to be in the office and see your colleagues, but I cannot imagine what it would be like if the entire organisation came into the office on the same day. It would probably take until lunchtime just to get near the building.


  9. Nifty

    It's intriguing to me that my team list 2 of the most highly talented members left due to management intransigence over WFH. So while a large number of core days in a physical office may be a great counsel of perfection, as the old saying goes, 'you just can't get the staff these days'.

  10. Dabooka Silver badge

    Can someone explain to me the the issue around maternity leave?

    The statement "how this is meant to suit those returning to work post-pregnancy.” leaves me baffled. What difference to make if you're returning from maternity leave? Even if you're at home you're at work, not looking after the little bundle of chaos.

    Shit like this just confuses the issue and detracts from real problems faced by those on maternity / paternity.

    1. Can't think of anything witty...

      Re: Can someone explain to me the the issue around maternity leave?

      i don't know, but i can guess that it is to do with collection from childcare.

      If you have to drop your child off at a nursery which opens at 8 and closes at 6, and you live more than an hour away from the office, then it's going to be hard to resolve that. if however the nursery is 10 minutes from your house and you can work from home, then life is a lot easier...

      1. Dabooka Silver badge

        Re: Can someone explain to me the the issue around maternity leave?

        That's childcare, I get that; I've got one if my own.

        I don't get the returning from maternity issue

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Can someone explain to me the the issue around maternity leave?

      The statement "how this is meant to suit those returning to work post-pregnancy.” leaves me baffled.

      UK (and most Eu countries) law postulates:

      1. That you are entitled to request officially flexible working conditions anytime while any of your children are up to 6 years old.

      2. Your company must review the request and provide you with a reasonable explanation if they are incapable of accommodating it.

      3. If they are being unreasonable you have a good discrimination or constructive dismissal case on your hands.

      4. While there is no precedent base regarding changes in flexible working policy mid-contract you probably have a very good case to claim violation of this part of the labor code if they significantly downsize it or revoke mid-contract without going through the step 2 for each and every employee which has a child under 6.

      This is the post-pregnancy angle and it will be very entertaining to watch how it bites IBM and the few other companies that have gone crazy on workhousing people lately get bitten by it.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smart language

    How do you become a "comms manager" when you mangle the English language this mercilessly?

    There is an inconsistent application of better ways of working and _in all honestly_ several guidance documents.


    Going forward, we need a clearer set of expectations for us to follow.


    Our Group colleagues rolled out a smart working policy very recently to their employees


    10-year-olds can structure sentences better than this. So I guess having a sub-10-year-old facility with the English language must be a job requirement.

  12. thegroucho

    I can sense the ghost ...

    ... of Marissa Mayer.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    sign of too many MBA's running the show?

    MBA == More Bloody Arseholes IMHO

    Playing these frankly stupid games does wonders for staff morale. Which is probably the prime object. Persuade a few to quit at no cost. Does wonders for the bottom line and Management Arseholes Bonus levels.

    And to think I once worked for them and thought that it was not that bad a place to work.... shudder.

  14. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    "Smart working days should not be the same day each week"

    Seems that they are concerned that their staff will take on outside work commitments instead of concentrating on working for Vodafone.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: "Smart working days should not be the same day each week"

      Or bugger off on a holiday.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How the thinking has changed since 2013

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