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The Post Geographic Workforce = Less Cost, Less Global Warming

Posted by: Michelle Conlin on June 6, 2007

One of the most important corporate innovations is the structure of the workplace itself. More and more, work is becoming location agnostic, place independent. Note the swarms of espresso-addled laptop jockeys hogging tables at your local cafe. The masses of hunch-headed Treo toters, walking and thumbing at the same time. At IBM, nearly half of the workforce has no permament office. At Best Buy, execs don’t even have to show up anymore. Sun Microsystems has closed down two Silicon Valley campuses and saved $70 million in annual expenses through its efforts to convince more than half its staff to work from home (or the beach, favorite boite or backyard).

Untethering workers from the workplace saves money. Case Closed.

Still, remote work faces plenty of opposition, especially from crusty clock-watchers and managers who fall prey to “butt-in-chair” syndrome, believing that sitting in a certain place means you are accomplishing a certain thing. Thus a nation of extreme commuters.

Now the remote-work ambassadors are trumpeting another alluring reason to immediately equip your underlings with as much wireless gadgetry as possible: it’s good for the environment. Here’s Harvard B-School prof Shoshanah Zuboff, from her blog The Support Economy, on the subject:

“But inside the support economy is a far more sustainable and profound response to climate crisis. It entails the shift from concentrated to distributed patterns of life, work, consumption. Start with our daily obeisance to the gods of command and control: the commute. The commute exists because in the late eighteenth century canny British factory owners figured out that they could get more work out of people and use fixed assets more efficiently if everyone worked in the same place at the same time. Today, the concentrated pattern of work costs far more than it saves for firms, individuals, and the planet: It feeds needless bureaucracy; it destroys value by insulating employees from consumers; it requires mass-carbon-spewing transport. The barriers to distributed working are not technological or substantive. Progress on this front has been slow because employers don’t want to give up physical supervision, because office politics require face time, because people who work “away” take unfair hits on their careers and prospects. Concentrated work patterns express power politics and are maintained out of inertia on both sides of the power equation.”

Again, case closed.

Reader Comments


June 6, 2007 4:14 PM

As someone who works for a butt-in-chair company, I wholeheartedly embrace this concept. After all, if sitting here right now were in any way productive for the company, would I have the time to leave this comment on your blog?

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