Tele-working is far better than delays on Southern Trains

Having endured another Southern Trains disaster today, I reckon it’s time people boycott the daily commute. The trains are rubbish, the road system is useless and we are made to pay more and more for third-rate services, just so we can do a day’s work.

Car tax, fuel duties and rail fares are on the rise. It doesn’t make sense just to given staff a pay rise, which immediately fills the pockets of the government and rail companies. How can that boost the economy?

I propose we sell the second car, don’t renew the annual season ticket and work from home at least two days a week

For businesses to get by in these tough economic conditions they have to do things differently. Given that most people have more sophisticated computer systems at home than the utterly inappropriate IT they use at work – why bother with a big HQ with corporate IT systems at all. Instead, downsize the office space and give staff the freedom to buy the equipment and software they feel most happy using.

Corporate IT’s role is then to provide guidelines and standards, which allows staff to interface with the corporate systems. For instance,  the company accepts Word and Excel docs – so if you prefer OpenOffice  or use Android or iOS, then you need an Office suite that allows you to save in .doc and .xls format.

On the corporate front, get rid of the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement for desktop software, offer hot-desking and use Citrix to provide users secure, audited access to back-end systems, based on their job roles. Finally negotiate new contracts for software based on acual usage.

I interviewed Bill Jensen and Josh Klein, co-athours of Hacking Work, last week about how staff are already working round the restrictions of traditional corporate culture. Businesses are hampered by legacy ways of working that date back to the industrial revolution.

It’s time for change. I’ve already got rid of the car and I hope by next year I won’t be enduring Southern Trains any more!

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Hi Cliff,

Absolutely! Working as I do in a sector (translation/copywriting) where almost the entire supplier base is freelance, I think it's very easy to get obsessively hung up on "enterprise security". Freelancers are exchanging files between all kinds of systems and platforms all day long, and you know what? The number of major disasters is pretty close to zero. Certain sensible precautions are necessary, of course, and in the early days occasional massively infected Office files would penetrate the barriers and cause chaos on our LAN - but nowadays (despite the growing sophistication of trojans, malware etc.), a little education and training go a long way, as do recommendations for sensible protective measures. We protect our in-house e-mail system using a 1024-bit encrypted VPN and dual antivirus, but I've been working in this industry for 25 years and vastly prefer the loose but relatively professional approach of the freelancer/outworker to what you rightly describe as "legacy ways of working". Let's be clear: if you're entirely dependent on your computer for work, there's a significant incentive to take care of it. The IT forums that have grown up round freelance translation alone are exceedingly detailed and helpful, providing huge amounts of advice to people working from home. In my view, there's no reason why enterprises shouldn't emulate this approach - we run our own internal knowledge base covering a wide range of issues, and I'm glad to say that contrary to expectation, staff do actually use it (that may have something to do with our attempts to include significant amounts of humour on each page, in order to encourage exploration!).

Document confidentiality, on the other hand: now there's an area that needs some careful reflection...

I couldn’t agree more, it’s time for a revolution in this area, you can’t fight the inevitable. As you say it’s key that businesses which encourage their employees to work from home, give those employees access to the business communications tools which enable them to work from home just as effectively and productively as if they were in the office. IT should make sure it all works together in the extended enterprise.

Top of the list of these business communications tools should be conferencing and collaboration solutions. Integrated audio and web conferencing solutions allow your ‘remote’ employees to meet with who they want, when they want, without anyone having to leave their desks.

All your employees need is access to a telephone (fixed or mobile) for the audio element and a PC/laptop with a broadband connection allowing access to a web conferencing solution. Web conferencing allows all of the remote meeting participants to share information (a contract, a presentation, a sales forecast, etc.) just as if they were all sitting around the same conference table.

Conferencing and collaboration is not just about often expensive and complex to deploy video. It is important to remember that it is not always necessary to ‘see’ the people you meet with!

Enabling employees to work from home is also good for the environment. Reduced business travel means reduced CO2 emissions!

Thanks Tim... and given the cost of petrol and diesel, the fact that train fares have risen, the snow in December. Perhaps it is time for businesses to rethink how they function. Do people really need to be physically in the office every day?

I recently wrote an article on why IT needs to change to enable people to work better. It's about the consumerisation of IT and how we have better equipment at home than at work - so why doesn't our employer's encourage us to use our own IT: