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Not going out could be the answer to Britain's falling productivity, or is it that office culture just isn’t the best way to get the best from the country’s workforce.
Since the majority of us used to do it, before that pesky industrial revolution came along, there’s nothing new about working from home - except what we call it. These days, it’s telecommuting, remote working, outsourced, freelancing, bedroom boardroom - take your pick.
Back in the days - and we’re talking the days of Waverley and Walter Scott, two hundred years ago – we would rise from our slumbers and, seconds later, be at our work place. In reality, most of us would be sleeping in the work place - be that the kitchen floor or, for the lucky few of us social climbers, an alcove off the room where we kept the pots, pans, children and spinning loom.
Happy days? Maybe not. Yet the modern equivalent is hardly any more pleasurable. Rise before the cockerel, trudge to the station or bus stop or garage; spend the next hour or more in traffic, all for the privilege of slaving away at an open plan work station that even Dickens would find demeaning, before facing the same arduous journey back home.
Is it any wonder then that half of all workers say they are happier and more productive when at home, than in the modern equivalent of pre-industrial servitude.
Professional recruitment consultants Robert Walters recently polled their UK client base to find that while fifty percent of professionals say they perform best when able to work remotely, only two-thirds of employers permit their staff to work away from base.
Of course, not all of us are office based - for example foresters and astronauts get out and about quite a lot - and not all of us can work remotely. Brain surgeons and air traffic controllers are among those who have fairly limited scope for conducting business out of the office.
However, it’s in the modern service industry factories, where we bash keypads not metal, that the survey found the greatest desire to get away from the working environment - in order to actually get some work done.
With ever more sophisticated computing packages, and ever faster internet connections, there’s plenty of scope for going remote. However, there seems to be an underlying belief that workers will far less get down to the job, and far more get down to some extra shut eye, if left to perform outside the office.
What surprised us is that the lack of trust isn’t one way. Despite the survey findings, many workers apparently don’t trust themselves to be more productive all round if given the freedom to avoid the daily commute on a daily basis. The least likely group of workers to take advantage of home working are Londoners, who arguably face the toughest and most expensive commuting regime of all the UK regions.
Of course, as many people find the office an inspiring place as do people who outperform the norm at home. So surveys like this are as useful as Hard Times for a company code of conduct. At the end of the day, whatever makes you cheerful we say. Just don’t expect too many modern employers to look kindly on finding you sleeping in an alcove behind the spinning loom (or the photocopier).