Flexible working

The cult of London

The phrase ‘rich people’s problems’ has its uses. I once overheard a group in a Knightsbridge restaurant sympathising with a companion in tones fit for a bereavement or life-changing injury. ‘Oh, poor you!’ It turned out that their nanny had been ill for two days while they were in Zermatt, and that Farrow & Ball was temporarily unable to supply an obscure shade of paint. To be fair, there are problems unique to the seriously rich. Take Marci Klein, daughter of Calvin. Not only was Marci kidnapped aged ten, but she later complained that in the midst of any passionate encounter with a new boyfriend, she would suddenly find herself

Remote workers of the world, unite!

A few nights ago on Twitter, I quipped that I was planning to launch a trade union for remote workers. With dues of £10 a year, but membership of 200 million worldwide, I planned to become the Jimmy Hoffa of Zoom (my colleague Jamie McClellan, clearly a Microsoft fan, suggested we call ourselves the Teamsters). If our demands for swivel chairs were not met, we would threaten to homework-to-rule — sitting with our backs to brightly lit windows, perhaps, or running vacuum cleaners in mid-presentation. But in a way, a million or so Londoners are already doing something similar by refusing to travel to work. This is a white-collar strike

Why would anyone want to work from home?

I’ve been having an office romance. Not with anyone in the office — but with the office itself. I’ve been going into the office every day during lockdown and I love everything about it: the bike ride from my Camden flat to work in Fitzrovia; the professional feeling that comes from being in a place dedicated to work; a chance to see more life than the limited activities that go on in your sitting room. I even like office furniture, the soft hum of the photocopier and the stationery box, with its neat cellophane packs of Post-it notes and extensive range of envelopes. But sadly, as an office-lover, I’m in

Will Covid kill off the office?

The most useless technology is the one you invent but fail to exploit. The Incas invented the wheel, but seem only to have used it on toys. Hero of Alexandria designed the first steam engine in the 1st century ad, but it was seen as a gimmick. The technological opportunity to escape from city-centre offices has been stuck in a similar limbo between invention and implementation. In the 1970s, Nasa engineer Jack Nilles envisaged ‘teleworking’ from local work centres. In 1984, the Times reported that tele-commuting was the ‘magical buzzword’ on the US microcomputing scene. In the 1990s, the UK had 200 ‘telecottages’: rural workspaces with computers, communications and social

It’s hell when your whole neighbourhood is working from home

Every morning, like sun-seekers stampeding to get their towels on the sunbeds at a cheap Spanish hotel, it’s a race to the patio for my neighbours and me. Each of us in the line of terraced houses on the village green must try to be the first to get into their garden, because the first one out there reserves the air space. If it’s the neighbour who works in telecoms then we’re in for merger talks all day. Her firm is in the middle of a big deal, the negotiations for which she’s carrying out on her patio via laptop conference calling. Working from home. Oh dear. This is going

Have you caught the remote-working bug?

One of the few benefits to emerge from this pandemic is that the world’s population has been given a crash course in complexity. If nothing else, many people may have learned why it makes sense to plot infection rates on a logarithmic scale, and a few may even have learned to use the word ‘exponentially’ in its true sense, rather than as a synonym for ‘a lot’. I hope this proves an enduring lesson. Because, in truth, very little in life can be understood properly without first understanding such concepts, since barely anything involving humanity changes in a linear way. Behaviour is contagious, and much of what we do results