MT Masterclass: Remote working

What is it? Would Reggie Perrin have cheered up if he hadn't had to perform his daily commute? That's the question devotees of remote working might ask.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Spending hours of your life travelling to and from a depressing office is a waste of time and energy, they'll tell you. Especially true if you're a 'knowledge worker' - someone who makes money working with ideas and in so-called creative industries. Do it from home in your pyjamas. That's the remote working dream. NB: Not to be confused with 'not remotely working', which is what many knowledge workers aspire to.

Where did it come from? Offices and factories grew up as part of the process of industrialisation. But although manufacturers still need the physical presence of their employees (albeit in reduced quantities), it has become clear that service-sector businesses (especially 'knowledge work' businesses) don't have to summon everybody in every day. Work gets done in people's heads and on PCs. Other colleagues can work remotely too. Travelling salespeople have to travel, and may not need a permanent base. Big fat HQs suggest a company that has become complacent and forgotten what business is all about. Hence the move to downsize office buildings and kick people out.

Where is it going? Look out for a new boom in remote working. The cost-cutters are on the march. Office space - even in a sickly property market - is expensive. Do you really need that desk, that phone, that PC? With broadband everywhere and getting faster, work can be done from home. There's a downside, of course. Well-functioning teams may get broken up and struggle - at least, initially - to retain the esprit de corps. Remote working may be on the rise, but there's a chance that it will do as much harm as good.

Fad quotient (out of 10): Seven and rising.

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