Is it time to put the brakes on remote working?
In another study from the University of Obvious Research Findings, research out today finds people are increasingly working away from the office.
And it’s perhaps it’s even more predictable given that the survey was commissioned by Telstra. Surprise! Telecommunications technology is all the rage says a study - from a telecommunications technology company.
Although once you get past saying “well, duh” and grab your pinch of salt, some details in the findings might just twitch your eyebrow. It says a quarter of Australian workers are spending five hours working outside of the workplace each week, and 15 per cent are doing it 10 hours a week. These are pretty significant numbers and signal a real shift in the nature of Australian work. The question is whether a society of always-on workers is a Good Thing.
Telstra spokesperson Rebekah O’Flaherty said: “Our research found the increase in mobile working has actually allowed people to spend more time with their family and friends.”
Pop the champers, right? Well yes, except if during that time you’re responding to meeting requests and answering emails on a mobile device while those family members or and friends are telling you how they’ve just discovered they’ve got some terrible disease.
Other surveys not commissioned by telecommunications companies consistently show Australians already work some of the longest hours in the western world.
The Australian Work and Life Index 2010, published by the Centre for Work and Life at the University of South Australia, shows 60 per cent of women and one in two men feel constantly time-pressured. It also found that “the majority of working Australians say that work – for all its benefits – has negative effects on the rest of life, creating strain and restricting time they have for themselves, families and friends, and communities.”
If technology – for all its benefits, too – restricts the amount of time you can be away from the virtual desk, what impact is that going to have on this trend of work creeping its way into more hours of the day?
Reporting on the survey this morning the Courier Mail spoke to lawyer Jess Heading who says she uses her commuting time to deal with emails.
This is constructive and I suspect increasingly common. Look around you on a train carriage at peak hour. But what is the real value if the trade-off is against time spent reading an excellent, mind-expanding book?
Let me be clear that I think working remotely can be a huge benefit to workers – giving them more time with family and friends – and to employers, by having more productive staff.
Working remotely can also mean being in an environment devoid of productivity-sapping distractions and the death-spiral of meetings that are regular complaints of office workers.
The figures in the Telstra survey, if they’re to be believed, make it look like the future of always-on workers is starting to become a reality. And it doesn’t have to be big firms in tall buildings - small business, too, can get huge benefits from having staff out on the road and handling correspondence or doing paperwork on the fly.
As the technology improves and more and more companies make it an option for their workers, it’s worth stopping to think about how to really realise the potential of remote access and avoid turning the entire world into a virtual office where people have their heads stuck in their work all the time.
What do you think?
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