I had an interesting discussion today with someone planning to make a TV documentary about people working from a distance. In particular they were looking at the trend towards living in France and Spain whilst still working in the UK.
Because air fares are so cheap (at least if you book well in advance) it is economical to live in the south of France and work in London, or other parts of the UK. With an increasing number of jobs involving electronic communications and a minimum of face-to-face contact it seems entirely reasonable to take advantage of better weather and a cheaper cost of living somewhere around the Mediterranean and commute back two or three times a month to the UK for meetings.
However it seems that most of the people who do this are self-employed or running their own business so they don’t have a boss to answer to. Once management gets involved there are all sorts of reasons produced as to why this mode of working is totally impractical. When will organisations realise that they are only going to keep their talent if they have a broader view of how work gets done?
There is an argument that we are living in a temporary period of low air fares and they will have to rise with increasing costs of fuel and environmental taxes. But even so, the cost of traveling from France to the UK is likely to be less than 5 times more than the cost of commuting to working the UK (particularly in London). So if people only come to the office once a week instead of 5 times, they are still better off even if air prices do take off (excuse the pun!!).
But we would need to organise work so people are not expected to attend meetings at short notice. Is it just lazy management that we expect people to be available at short notice for meetings or is work so unpredictable that we cannot be organised in advance?