Stand by your beds

Officials should stay in the office, not follow teleworkers home

Being inspected is rarely pleasant. With its overtones of schooldays, army barracks and Porridge, you don't have to be a tattered anarchist to feel uncomfortable at such direct contact with The Man.

It is of course always for our own good, and few institutions are more ostensibly in favour of that good than the Health and Safety Executive. The HSE mandated annual ritual of checking chairs, cabling, desks and workstations is mostly harmless — it provides an excuse to get rid of the detritus that's built up since last time and gets people thinking about RSI, even if it does little to change the chances of getting electrocuted by a faulty keyboard.

Yet that may not be enough for the voracious maw of the do-gooding machine. If people are working from home, the thinking runs, then they're effectively at the office. Therefore, their companies have the same duty of care towards them and must instigate an inspection policy that extends to wherever the work computer is situated, living room, study or bedroom.

This is a horrific prospect. If taken to its logical conclusion, then all company rules would apply; there'd be no more working in pyjamas, no alcohol allowed on the premises, and heaven help your pets. At least someone would pop round to water the plants.

Home working is successful because it changes the rules, not because it provides an excuse to extend them. It is an acknowledgement that people are responsible and will work productively in an informal environment. If managed with sensitivity and imagination it has the potential to make our working lives a lot more pleasant and better integrated with the rest of our time on the planet. Such things are very important, especially in a commercial world that tends to ignore such considerations to the detriment of all, and watering them down because nanny says so is neither healthy nor safe.

We will let the HSE inspect our bedrooms only when they let us inspect theirs. Until then — typing in slippers? Heck, we'll take that risk.