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You don't need employers to move away from London - you need to persuade them to move beyond office culture.

One of the magazines I work for went virtual recently. They downsized from a couple of floors to a shoebox office with a PC and some storage. The MD splits her time between HQ and home. Everyone else works from home full-time, and they stay in touch over Skype.

They've all saved a few hundred pounds a month in travel costs, and they have an extra couple of hours a day free. They're not being any less efficient or productive than they used to be, and they're still working normal office hours - but they're doing it in different locations, from home.

If anything they're working more smoothly because meetings don't waste as much time as they used to, and there's an automatic record of all conversations.

I'm amazed how few tech companies support telecommuting. There's Skype, there's Facetime, there's email, there are Wikis and blogs, but companies still seem to believe the only way to get things done is to haul everyone into a single building at the same time every morning, keep them there all day whether they're busy or not, and send them off home again at the end of the day - five times a week.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 31st, 2011 at 05:25:35 PM EST
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Telecommuting has its own pitfalls, though.

Oh, I don't doubt that it can be good for the company. But if you're not careful it produces a cubicle culture where employees don't interact with each other in any natural way.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue May 31st, 2011 at 05:36:53 PM EST
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You can balance that by meeting once a month and making it an Informal Friday - for those who live close enough to do that.

And I'm finding it difficult to think of anything more cubicle-ish and artificial than the usual corporate at-work interactions.

I've been working from home since 1993, and I get far more done in far less time than I've ever been able to manage in an office.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 31st, 2011 at 05:48:04 PM EST
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I miss my cubicle back at Census.  Sure, the building was in a demilitarized zone, and the commute was four times longer, but it was also new!  And it had insulation.  Now I have my own office in a muggy old building that I'm pretty sure must have been built during Union occupation or something.  The elevators break down almost daily.

Voldemort also doesn't let us use the heating system in winter anymore.

/csb

So, yeah, I'm down with the whole work-from-home thing.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue May 31st, 2011 at 07:20:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like you, I've been working from home (or away from the fray) for nearly 20 years, and I'm part of a network of small companies and freelancers that assemble for media projects. I'm tempted to say I'm part of a creative ecosystem that is enabled by communication technologies.

I even have several regular clients I've never met F2F, though there are always 'connectors' involved i.e. trusted colleagues who recommend my work (and vice versa). These faceless clients tend to be outside Helsinki - as far away as Lapland.

The advantages to the entrepreneur are obvious: no expensive office space, little travel time and travel expenses (I DO meet clients), flexible work hours, better life quality, etc. There needs to be a greater investment in communication tech, but these days it's fairly cheap.

For clients, their 'advantage' is that they need to construct better briefs! And that means no more meetings without agendas and decisions. "We need to have another meeting to find out why we are not getting through our workload".

For society it means (or should) fewer cars on the roads, rural repopulation, profitable public transport, less pollution, support for local shops and services - and peace of mind.

The problem, of course, is that not all work is as interesting and challenging as the work you and I do. I'd do it for free - and I often do it for free for non-profit projects or to help younger colleagues get started. In corporate panoptikonia, the slave-driving hierarchy can only control workers in unsatisfying jobs by putting them in cells, and only allowing them out at night. There has to be a better way.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 03:51:22 AM EST
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I think telecommuting is fine for that part of the creative class who have an established set of marketable skills, but it won't suit entry-level jobs and it has little application to most of the jobs that most people do.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 06:52:22 AM EST
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I disagree. A good proportion of office jobs can be done from home. Entry-level jobs like call-centre work can easily be done from home.

The only jobs that can't are the ones where physical stuff has to be warehoused and/or processed. But anything that's paper-based, phone-based or e-based is an easy win.

Some businesses are already doing it. I know a couple of people with ordinary office jobs who have been shifted out of central London properties and are now working from home.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 07:21:21 AM EST
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I know a couple of people with call center jobs who provide phone support for a large satellite TV firm from their homes in the middle of nowhere

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 07:28:27 AM EST
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No, especially as routine paperwork becomes electronic and it becomes routine to scan physical paperwork as it arrives. The issue isn't being able to do the job, it's more a management issue - bosses like to see rows of peons working away where they can see them.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 07:36:19 AM EST
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Well what status is there in being a distributed manager? in not having serried ranks of  peons slaving in front of you?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jun 1st, 2011 at 07:47:27 AM EST
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