The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intent

Due to unforseen circumstances (a burst pipe in the office upstairs), our Frozen North office has had to temporarily close.

Of course the work still needs to be done, so the home working project has had a sudden acceleration. Our IT contractors are producing laptops in only three times the time it would take to order them from ebuyer.com, leaving the rest of us to deal with the other aspects of home-enabled working – in my case, of course, the Health and Safety implications featuring high.

Someone who should know better asked me today if we should be supplying each of our home workers with a fire extinguisher, in case their house catches fire while they’re working in it. I kept a straight face and produced a sensible justification why we shouldn’t, that went a bit further then my first reaction, which was “errr…NO!”. But it made me think…what if I’d been on holiday? It’s conceivable that in my absence, someone would’ve thought “Fire extinguishers aren’t expensive, let’s issue everyone with one rather than risk getting it wrong”. And then, having done it for this crowd, we have to do it for every future home worker.

Then because we’re a medium-sized public sector body, other public organisations start coming under pressure from their staff to do the same. And on the same justification – they’re not expensive so it isn’t worth fighting – the other organisations do the same. And so the policy spreads, with every organisation or company that says yes making it harder for those that come after to say no.

So my question is – at what point does a daft suggestion become industry accepted practice, without ever going through the intermediate stage of being a good idea?

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