Paul Graham's What Business Can Learn from Open Source

According to Paul Graham’s What Business Can Learn from Open Source, people are more productive when they work at their own hours in their homes. He uses the examples of software startups versus established software companies.

This leads me to wonder how should businesses, which have a lot of capital invested in equipment, manage the work hours of their employees. The employees have to be in contact with the machines at scheduled times, if the machines are to be operated efficiently and economically. Examples: Intel’s semiconductor FABs with their process developing and monitoring physicists and chemists, airline companies and their pilots and airplane maintenance technicians, car assembly plants.

Maybe it is a significant fact that those businesses, which have expensive equipment, do not lock into uniform office cubicles those employees, who deal with the equipment on daily basis. Sailors on a ship sometimes need to be available 24 hours a day to handle emergencies. They work under different weather conditions. They have shore leaves. Shop workers need to be in the shop during its work hours, because it is when the customers come in. However they do not sit in offices or waste time in meetings. They stand and serve customers, reorder the inventory, or whatever. The “expensive equipment” in their case is the shop’s inventory and fixtures which entice customers to leave their money in the shop.

So it seems that it is only those businesses, which do not need to provide their employees with expensive capital equipment, do lock their employees into a 09:00-17:00 day in boring offices and lots of meetings. It is precisely those companies, for which Graham’s conclusions seem to be true. The work done for those companies could be done from employee’s home at his own hours - the inexpensive equipment (such as a PC with one or two specialized peripherals) could be installed at his home. The profession is not necessarily software development. It could as well be a telemarketing operation (heaven forbid).

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