Teleworking - Staying sane by the Seine

Have laptop, will travel...

Have laptop, will travel...

Having a laptop means you should be able to work from anywhere. More and more of us are doing just that but what are the big issues? Suzi Kerridge makes thing clearer, in this personal account... Some days lunch was a three-course affair at a Parisian pavement café in the warm spring sunshine, others it was a quick sandwich from a London eaterie wolfed down at my PC. In the summer I'd work on my tan as well as my copy. No tubes, no commuting, no angry crowds, no traffic jams. Instead there were long warm evenings, walks by the Seine, runny brie and the best (and cheapest) wine I've ever drunk - and deadlines were still met. Have laptop, will travel is a dictum many are starting to subscribe to. Now, not everyone will want to move abroad in order to telework but an increasing number of workers are reassessing their working lives. Research from the UK Labour Force Survey shows 1.7 million UK citizens - or six per cent of Britons - now work at least one day a week from home. Meanwhile Datamonitor claims 6.5 million UK workers work at home for part of the week - a staggering 25 per cent of the country's workforce. But the research firm goes a step further and estimates that by 2005 there will be almost 40 million home workers across Europe. Of these, 8.3 million will live in the UK. And teleworking doesn't only benefit the worker - it can save millions of pounds in property costs. BT instigated its Workstyle Consultancy Group to promote teleworking after its economy drive to save £180m in property costs proved to be a real winner. Currently just under 8,000 of its employees are officially based at home with a further 40,000 working in the field thanks to laptops. However, not all companies are so encouraging. For many IT departments the idea of hundreds of workers all remotely trying to access the corporate network sends shivers down spines. "Most IT departments are under enough pressure to support office workers without having to support the flexi-workers as well," said Sara Gemmell, marketing director at outsourcing company Nextra. The pressure comes, said Gemmell, from the fact that the typical flexible worker is the least IT savvy. The flexi-worker is likely to be female, married with children and eager for a greater balance between work and home. Most non-flexible workers are male, single with relatively few responsibilities, and interested in the latest technical gadgets such as PDAs or WAP phones. A battle rages, continued Gemmell, between the top level management who want to promote better working conditions and the IT department who'd like to keep IT centralised. "IT departments are under too much pressure already and they lack the resources to offer the type of 24-hour support needed by flexi-workers. The forward thinking IT directors are too busy focusing on the leading edge developments to offer the operational support needed," she said. According to the latest research by Nextra, 57 per cent of companies have flexible working guidelines in place but only a quarter of those companies see them actively promoted. Gemmell added: "Although the idea of flexible working is driven from the top level of management, they really do feel more comfortable knowing and seeing exactly what employees are doing." Only 23 per cent of companies trust their employees to work when they are at home, she claimed. Not exactly what the likes of BT et al want to hear as they try and flog broadband services for the home. So if you are tired of that old commute and want to spend more time at home, then teleworking could be the answer. Failing that, I hear there is a lovely medieval Italian mountain town called Colletta touting itself as the place to work from. http://www.colletta.it