Sounds Crazy #9 | Bandwidth

Back in my academic days we were not allowed to spend any University money on coffee and tea. I would ask politely why I couldn’t create a more convivial workplace by providing free beverages for my postgrad students and research assistants only to be told it was not allowed. Even in the department tearoom there was an honesty box to cover the cost of the milk.

I never understood this and used to think it was just the system being stingy. And being me, I railed, often taking my team out for coffee even though we had a perfectly suitable coffee room next to the labs. The first thing that happened when I converted our research into a company was the purchase of a kettle followed swiftly by a water cooler.

What upset me back then was the assumption that productivity was all about the number of hours at the desk and how expertly one counted beans. It obviously had nothing to do with how happy people were at work.

Research is repetitive stuff. In our case there were many hours of routine sample processing every day. This meant taking regular breaks was essential to our sanity. The irony is that these days we would be instructed by the OH&S officer to stop peering down the microscope and go to yoga class — but I digress.

What got my goat recently was a report on the front page of the weekend paper telling us that the new Australian prime minister has decreed that all travel by politicians and Federal bureaucrats must have permission.

Mr Abbot requires that government ministers sign off on travel requests from civil servants and that he himself must agree to any travel that costs more than $50,000.

Now I don’t know about you, but I always thought that members of parliament and the senior staff that support their efforts were there to develop, debate, design and implement public policy.

Instead Mr Abbot wants them to be travel agents.

I would rather have the finite daily energy allocation to the brains of national leaders and their staff to be used furthering the public good.

I want them thinking about policy and figuring out the endless machinations of delivering it effectively. Not wasting valuable mental bandwidth as travel police.

Next they will be buying their own coffee.

Sounds crazy because it is.

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