Time to start moofing!

Jun 22 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

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.