First-class idea for productivity

Website makes a case for mobile working but has surprises

Website makes a case for mobile working but has surprises

Why hasn't Research in Motion produced a waterproof version of the Blackberry? Today's top executives waste so much time taking showers, the return on investment could be compelling.

OK, we have not got to that stage yet, but a recent YouGov survey said "dead time" is costing British businesses almost £8bn a year, and much of it is lost to travel. People would be much more productive if they could work on the move.

Journalists have always loved this idea. You can easily justify buying a new notebook PC for the articles you will write during flights to and from the US. Spending the flight time eating, drinking, sleeping or watching Kill Bill does not detract from the value of the argument.

Now, however, "top mathematician and chemical engineer" Sam Espig has put the idea on a scientific footing. It is simply a matter of multiplying the productivity factor (compared to the average office) by the environmental efficiency factor - do you have the tools to get the job done? - to produce a "work per hour" (wph) rating.

For example, sitting in a cosy hotel room with a laptop and a broadband network is good; standing up on a crowded bus is not so good.

Working out all these ratios would no doubt be a tricky business but, thanks to Microsoft, Espig has done that. All you have to do is pick the options you want on the bCentral web page and wait for the result to pop out.

Curiously, flying business class (1.26wph) is rated almost as environmentally efficient as a hotel room (1.32wph) and better than working at home (1.17wph) because of the lack of distractions and interruptions.

Of course, your productivity also depends on whether you have access to the tools needed to do the job, including colleagues and company documents. And, even if it is efficient, it is hard to justify spending £4,000 on clearing old e-mail.

But there is more to this story than the bCentral headline "The hidden benefits of first-class travel".

If research says people in offices only spend about three of their eight hours doing real work, perhaps we should replace their desks with rows of first-class airline seats - keeping the hostess service and seat belts but dropping the alcohol, movies, blankets etc.

This kind of approach works with battery hens and is now being used for call centre employees. Who wants to take the next step and try a more luxurious version on business executives? Or is that being done already?

Jack Schofield is computer editor at the Guardian

Online wph calculator

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