Alan Dee: Ever thought about outsourcing yourself?

It’s gone all around the world, but if you haven’t heard about it, the week’s top talking point in many an office was the enterprising sort in the USA who followed the lead of so many hard-heated bosses and outsourced his own job to China.

The clever thing was that he didn’t exactly clear this with his bosses, so he kept getting paid – he just found someone on the other side of the world who was willing to do the hard graft for just a fifth of his six figure salary.

That left him with a tidy margin, and all he had to do, when he wasn’t able to come up with some convincing excuse about why he was working from home that day, was turn up at the office and look busy.

Once there, he spent his time surfing the web or watching videos – he only got caught when a check revealed rather a lot of data traffic coming in from China which couldn’t be explained.

It demonstrates the sort of enterprise, nerve and creative thinking that merits a seat on the board, if you ask me, though it may not suprise you to learn that the worker concerned has now parted company from the firm he hoodwinked so successfully.

But it’s a cautionary tale for anyone feeling a little bit nervous about the continuing security of their own jobs as the tough times continue.

It’s not so long ago that only a small proportion of jobs could be classified as so repetitive and relentless that a machine could do them, and we’d be happy to let it.

That’s not the case today, is it? If you don’t absolutely, positively, have to be there in person to do your job – hairdressers, bus drivers, chefs, undertakers, plumbers, that sort of thing – there’s a good chance it could be done anywhere in the world, and there are plenty of places where people will do it for less.

In most offices, sad to say, the only absolutely essential person on that basis is the cleaner, and only for as long as the office exists. If all the rest of the jobs go, it’s goodbye to the mop and bucket department, too.

And who could have predicted 10 years ago that major retail chains would be brought to their knees by shifts to online services? Even groceries are now available at the click of a mouse. That’s nothing new, of course – 100 years ago every provision merchant worth his salt had a network of boys on bikes delivering orders. It’s just the scale and the complication of the system that has changed.

But if you are nervous about your job, here’s something to think about. If you did read about that cunning computer expert, and you did it at work, you probably pondered about whether you could get away with something similar – and your bosses are probably wondering the very same thing, whether you know about it or not.