Snow! Freezing temperature causing travel chaos. Commerce’s beating heart has stopped!
…and hundreds of businesses continue as normal.
No news outlet will run that second line as a headline, but that’s exactly what is happening in London and elsewhere – and not just during the past few days’ big freeze, but every day. The quiet revolution has already taken place in many organisations up and down the country, transforming the way many of us work. So rather than engaging in a drawn-out, frozen commute, I was online and productive yesterday morning.
Several years ago, the phrase “working from home” was a euphemism for “bunking off”. You’d be expected to be in the office unless you had a good reason for not being there. Today, millions of us routinely work from home at least a few days each week.
It’s a massive change and a lot has had to happen for it to take root. When my dad went on a business trip (he’s long retired now), he’d get to the hotel, review the few papers he had with him in his briefcase, then go and see a museum or take in a show. He might check in with the office, using a red payphone, but the office was only going to call if it was a real emergency – and they could only hope they’d actually get hold of him.
Nowadays, I check into the hotel, get connected, and get working. There’s almost nothing I can’t do outside the office. The only reason left to go there is to meet with people face-to-face. And even then, I tend to do the first meeting face-to-face, not all of them.
On a normal day, it doesn’t matter whether I’m in the office, at home, on the road or in a hotel somewhere – I can do pretty much anything, anywhere. I usually participate in a few video conferences, several audio or web conferences, make and receive tens of calls and process around a hundred emails. I will work on documents and spreadsheets that will never appear on paper, and be able to see at a glance who is free for a call, and when they’ll be free if they aren’t right now.
If you’re reading this on the difficult way in to work, maybe you need the same tools I’ve got: a smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop, and some clever software.
Actually you don’t really need the tablet, but it is lighter to carry when the weather’s more normal and you’re meeting someone in London.