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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Remote working

Air Date: Week of
London’s St. Pancras station is a transportation hub for the city. Experts want to create permanent work space near the station to reduce commuting times. (Photo: Brother Magneto)

London is getting ready to host the summer Olympics. City officials want Londoners to find alternative work spaces to reduce traffic in the congested city. Linda Chandler is co-author of the White Paper, which outlines the “Anywhere Working City” concept. She tells host Bruce Gellerman this new workplace strategy will continue after the Olympics are over.


GELLERMAN: Soon the fastest athletes in the world will be speeding in and around London for the 30th Summer Olympics.


GELLERMAN: On your mark, get set… go….but not so fast! Even during the best of times London traffic moves at a snail’s pace---so during the Olympics, city commuters are being warned to adjust their schedules, and they may be wise to heed the advice in a White Paper report called “Anywhere Working Cities”. It’s designed to lighten the load in London during and after the Olympics. Linda Chandler, a Microsoft Enterprise Architect is one of the co-authors of “Anywhere Working Cities.” Welcome to Living on Earth Linda!

CHANDLER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

GELLERMAN: So this third space, describe it for me, am I going to meet people from my company there or I’ll meet people from your company there or what?

CHANDLER: The way I imagine the third space is that it has to be really accessible. So it has to be as accessible as a coffee shop. So, you know, maybe it is on the High Street and maybe it’s somewhere you can just walk into quite freely. And I’d like to imagine that I didn’t have to pre-book, I could be a member of this particular establishment by walking through the door.
And perhaps, we have the idea, that you might kind of touch in and touch out. I can sit down at a desk and I can use a desk for forty minutes, and I can have a great broadband connection, I can perhaps make a few calls. And when I need to go to my next appointment, I touch out, and I’ve only been charged for that amount of time.

GELLERMAN: Well, the idea of a virtual office, a remote office, an office online, is not new. I mean, there’s a lot of people running their world headquarters out of a Starbucks.

(Photo: mrdorkesq)

CHANDLER: Yeah, absolutely. I think what we offer in some of the white paper, they’re ideas that aren’t really new, but we decided we’d bring them together. You know, we’ve got coffee shops and people are starting to use those as their offices, but we’re just not finding that they’re really conducive to the working environment. And so we kind of wanted to reverse that idea with something around the Third Space. You know, you might have a small coffee stand in the corner, but primarily, this was a place where it was really accessible, but you could actually come and actually have a fruitful hour or so in the office.

But a particular problem for us at this moment in time, of course, is the fact that we are hosting the Olympics. So of course, our congestion problems are just magnified during that period. And what we’re trying to do is to see—now we’re putting in an awful lot of effort around how people are diverted across the city and encouraging them to work in different ways. And actually, how do we keep that momentum going to take that behavior through to beyond the Olympics.

GELLERMAN: I know in your white paper, you have an expression here, and I’m quoting, it says, “You want to learn the dog is for life, not just for Christmas.” I guess that must be a British-ism because here we would say something about Easter Bunnies.

CHANDLER: That’s the analogy here, that you know, this isn’t just for a few weeks in the summer, this is for life. This is a behavioral change, really.

GELLERMAN: So the idea is that you don’t have to go into this congested city, or this incredibly chaotic city, in the case of London during the Olympics, and you’ll have someplace else to go to do your work.

CHANDLER: That’s right. I think there are two new concepts, I think that there’s one around if you’re out and about in the city, it’s great to have a third space to touch down in. And we’ve got great examples of that in terms of the British Library. An awful lot of people come to the British Library and they sit in vicinity and they use their wifi. But also it’s about trying to encouraging people to stay in their local vicinity. London’s got many centers and we talk about this idea of a polycentric city. And it seems that, you know, between the hours of nine and five, people are emptying out of those centers and coming into the city. And what we want to do is encourage people to stay local to where they are.

GELLERMAN: But technologically, I could have done this interview from my house. But you know, I like coming to my office. It’s got my coffee cup, it’s got my blackboard, it’s got my stuff. It’s kind of like my home away from home. And I like, well, I like most of my colleagues. (LAUGHS) I like seeing them.

The 2012 summer Olympics will be held in London.

CHANDLER: [LAUGHS] And I think that’s great. And I think it’s all about balance and it’s all about choice as well. I mean, certainly one of the concepts in anywhere organizations today is this idea of, you know, what am I going to do today? Where am I going to work best? What do I need to do? Am I in a collaborating mood? Do I need to be surrounded by people? Do I need to talk to lots of people? Do I need to make those serendipitous connections? Or actually, do I really just need to get these thoughts down on paper? And do I not want to meet anybody by the water cooler and do I not want to be distracted? So I think it’s all about, you know, thinking about the style of working that you want to do that day and choosing the most appropriate place that’s going to enable you to do your best work.

GELLERMAN: Well Linda Chandler, thanks a lot, I really appreciate it. I enjoyed talking to you.

CHANDLER: And you. Thanks very much, Bruce.

GELLERMAN: Linda Chandler is a co-author of the report “Anywhere Working Cities.”



The Anywhere Working City White Paper


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