Time to start moofing!

2007

They have discovered that nine out of 10 workers in the UK would prefer to work somewhere other than a traditional office. Now Microsoft has built an office up a tree in a London park to ram home the point that it easier than ever to be free of your desk and still be able to work.

Building an office in a tree is one way to get some publicity – and since you're reading this, it has clearly worked.

But the serious point behind the treehouse Microsoft has built in central London's Pimlico Gardens is that we can now work however we choose and think more creatively about how our work life and personal life fit together.

Research for the Mobile Out Of Office initiative (or MOOF in Microsoft-speak) found that three-quarters of people now view the ability to work flexibly a deciding factor when choosing a new job while half believe that their working lives would be less stressful if they could just be more flexible about where they chose to work.

The research by the Future Laboratory also predicts that by 2012, there will be over 5.5 million remote workers in the UK, although some studies suggest that the figure is already approaching this number.

However as research by the Equal Opportunities Commission has revealed, the UK still has a long way to go before remote working gains full acceptance, with only one in five UK firms giving staff the opportunity to work away from the office.

What's more, the belief that those who "telecommute" have all but stepped off the career ladder, are troublesome to manage and often difficult to communicate with remains deeply ingrained in the psyche of many managers.

Sidestepping the vexed question of Crackberry addiction (one virus that can't be blamed on Microsoft) Microsoft's James McCarthy said that the tree-office simply proved that dreams of working outdoors can be realised.

"In fact, mobile working is all about being liberated, having more control over your day and at last more freedom in your life".

Tom Stewart, from System Concepts, an international expert on people and technology, added: "If workers have the freedom to explore different ways of working, they will be less stressed, more effective and more productive. Also, giving people more choice is empowering, raises morale and improves the relationships between employees and their bosses – it's a win-win".

Needless to say, allowing workers greater freedom of choice can also bring big environmental benefits. If many of us chose not to commute into work, experts have estimated that the CO2 emissions for a single person could be reduced by over a tonne per year by each worker not driving at peak hours.

Underlining this, new legislation introduced this week in the US Senate by Senators Kerry and Snow to improve energy efficiency includes a provision for "a telecommuting pilot program at the SBA [Small Business Administration] responsible for educational materials and outreach to small businesses on the benefits of telecommuting…"

So is the message that work should not be a place you go, but a thing you do, getting through? You tell us.

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Older Comments

I realy don't think remote working will hit the big time until there are sufficient younger managers in positions of authority who don't buy the old idea that presence = productivity. A lot of the older generatioin simply don't - and won't - get it. They simply can't manage remote teams.

Steve Birmingham (but at home today)

I live in SW France. My employer is based in North London and peope work from all over. As a design company, it works for us.

Ellen

I work in a large firm where all staff are equipped to work remotely. This is part of our business recovery plan - that in the case of emergency we could all continue production of work and client service without being in the office.

On a day to day basis however the minority of people use this functionality. I would say the take up for working from home is less than 10% of what is has the potential to be without any further investment from the firm.

It seems to me it has something to do with habits and preferences, rather than rules and regulations/management.

Clodagh London - at the office today

I think moofing needs to be carefully thought through before implemented at a management level. I run a small management consultancy and from experience I've found the following factors determine whether moofing's for you and if so, to what degree should it be practiced and how. Nature of the business: Some types of service are conducive to moofing (management consultancy is one of them) others are not. Employee role: As the 'keeper of the front gate' your receptionist probably shouldn't be working from out of the office but it might be ok for a sales rep. Personality and attitude: Some people are self-driven others follow that old school dictum where presence = productivity. I will say though that a) a moofing policy should be carefully thought through and thoroughly and b)mobile employees should not work from home for too long. With my company only senior staff (consultants and project managers) can work from home and as a rule of thumb 1-2 days per week and the whole week if under pressure to meet deadlines. I allow this for my senior staff because they are all university qualified and have at least 5 years project, management and sales/accounts proven experience in their previous jobs. All office support staff (including PAs) work from the office, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday--no exceptions. And yes, moofing is a privillege that is prone to abuse, even by staff members who should no better. A little while ago I had to let one of the project managers (a PHD candidate) go for abusing the moofing privillege. He was staying away too long from the office, (despite repeated reminders) and wasn't getting the work done.

Mugly2000 New Zealand