The ice is thawing
Attitudes are however changing, albeit slowly. A CBI study from 2011 found that 59% of employers have remote workers in some capacity. That's not to say that they have an entirely remote workforce, but rather that some employees are not based in the HQ. That figure is up from 13% in 2006.
Anecdotally, companies (usually startups) are more likely to embrace different working arrangements. Thanks to the ever disruptive tech startup industry, which is driven by a collection of anti 9-5 twenty-somethings, more companies are embracing remote working. Startup PR, a PR agency for startups, employs PR consultants from around the world because of their regional knowledge, as founder Ella Gascoigne explained:
"I use remote workers and freelancers so it means I can cherry pick the very best team for any project. Also, another huge benefit for PR is that they have specific regional knowledge. And because they are working from home, I find they are very proactive individuals (you have to be to get the job done from home).
"Obviously the cost saving is a benefit which I can pass on to clients. I want the best people to work for me – not the best people who live near me and want to work in-house. It just opens up a wider -more talented - playing field. This means I work with an exciting team who are all bringing ideas to the pot".
The pendulum will only swing in favour of remote working when older more rigid institutions like the NHS - or any other public body for that matter - decide to implement alternative working solutions. That's when you know that things have changed for good.
Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder of UK and US virtual workforce platform Time Etc believes that remote working will become more common: "Certainly I think remote working will become an important part of the mix for good employers.
"I also think most companies in 10 years will be hybrid - a mixture of full time, dedicated staff, staff who work remotely either full time or part time and an extended freelance or outsourced workforce".
However, futurologist and BBC commentator Tom Cheesewright thinks that we're a long way away from a majority remote workforce and that's still cause for physical offices: "The challenge is that most companies are a long way from having the technology to support properly flexible work. Sure everyone has a laptop and smartphone. But most companies still rely on email and Office for workflow. Inefficient and insecure - issues that are overcome by keeping people in the same office.
"Until companies can fix the workflow issues, there's no way we can give up on full time offices and the option of just getting together when we need to."
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