Now the holidays are over for most of us and we are back at work, we just might think how good it would be to be beside the seaside all the time, or at least enjoy more of the good life in the country.
Would controlling a remote workforce present some logistical and organisational nightmares?
Of course, telecommuting has been around for sometime but with faster broadband becoming commonplace and cheaper, even in rural areas, and the business case for it just might stack up to boost its popularity and make it more mainstream.
Do our businesses really need to be in the CBD, taking up so much valuable office space, when so much of the workforce could be offloaded to the cheaper countryside and suburbia? And if such workers could be offloaded this way, then there might not be a need to pay them the extra money they need to live and work in the city.
What a great way for businesses to cut costs while giving their staff a better "quality of life"! However, as the Wall Street Journal blogs, better broadband may not lead to extra telecommuting due to extra video-conferencing equipment needed or company "culture" being against it.
Over the summer break, I drove down from Northland to Wellington passing through many lovely villages and towns on the way. In the rural wine and fruit producing region of Hawkes Bay I bumped into a former workmate who is also a technology journalist for several national titles, who visits Auckland every few weeks.
One of the reasons he left Auckland for Napier was so he could buy a house for him and his family. Home ownership is effectively unaffordable for many in the city nowadays, so the country life offers an option. Indeed, I almost took the plunge last year and attended my first open home.
However, country life also has its drawbacks, such as the isolation of being several hours away from your workmates, friends, etc. For a freelancer, you cannot do that "job" in the city you might get at an hour or two's notice. The cost of those monthly trips to Auckland may also wipe out any cost savings of basing yourself so far away. You might even feel you are losing touch with people and events, especially if, like me, you are single, working "home alone".
On my summer travels, I also interviewed the owners of a couple of technology businesses in the wine producing Wairarapa region, just outside Wellington. Lower costs were also a factor for them moving there from the city, as well as the acclaimed "quality of life".
Better internet was allowing such work to be done from their small, rural towns; businesses which were also growing as other "townies" moved in, with their own technology needs. These add to other companies who I came across last year and had "gone bush" in the Hokianga, citing lifestyle; plus an online world still allowing global servicing of their markets.
The service companies I saw last week had some clients in Wellington, helped by software allowing remote monitoring and fixing of computer problems. Where face-to-face contact was needed, a local engineer could be found. Indeed, this could present a model for a future distributed workforce.
IT staffers would have to install more remote monitoring tools, and links would have to be formed with local engineers for problems that needed on-the-spot handling.
But would controlling such a workforce present some logistical and organisational nightmares?
Some years back, I recall a futurist suggesting a world several decades from now where millions of British workers had decamped to a sun-kissed low-cost North African Mediterranean coast. Every few weeks they would head back to their London head offices to receive their instructions and keep up with what was going on.
Now that maybe so 2030, but for 2010, I will be heading closer to the city but avoiding the CBD in a bid to get the best of both worlds. Thirty-to-60 minutes from Auckland rather than several hours should strike a better balance.
Thus, if your summer break has led you wanting to consider working from home, or if some of your staffers are demanding it, especially if much distance is involved, these are some of the things to think about.
The following articles also give you a few more things to think about: