Thursday, 31 October 2013

Satellite Offices - I've said this before...

...perhaps it's a crap idea? But I've thought about this for some time (I've written about it on here before too) and I can't think of reasons why it wouldn't work for many many types of work. And I'm sure many other people must have thought of it too because it's pretty simple and quite obvious. And some companies and organisations already do it.

It seems to me that satellite offices - by that I mean small local offices of larger companies or organisations - is a simple solution that would help with a number of problems: traffic and transport, quality of life, the environment, massive disparities in house prices and struggling local economies.

So many people drive or struggle on inadequate, unreliable and expensive public transport to the big towns and cities for work because there isn't any work where they live. And companies pay through those nose for large office spaces in the most expensive areas AND lose time and money to traffic and transport issues as well as problems with workers' childcare and ill-health. Meanwhile, businesses in small towns and villages struggle to make ends meet, with many local shops, pubs etc closing all the time.

So why, when many many jobs can be done remotely these days, do we not have more satellite offices in small towns and villages? Or for that matter, in large towns with heavy unemployment. Workers could walk to work or drive short distances, having dropped their kids off at school. Shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants would open up to serve the workers. House prices would start to even out, so those in more 'central' areas would become more affordable whilst those in less central areas or in towns/villages with inadequate transport provision would become more valuable. Quality of life would be hugely improved for spending less time in traffic.

Of course there are many jobs where it's necessary to be on-site for most of the time. But if less people are travelling to central business areas, transport would be somewhat easier. And many jobs would benefit from more localised offices, and can use web conferencing for meetings and paperless electronic fileservers that most employers should be using now anyway.

This also feeds into my uncertainty about HS2: although we desperately need a more modern rail network, HS2 will not provide that; it's not a network - it's just one line. It will make many areas even worse off, some areas even more expensive and will only serve a very thin strip of the country.

I just can't see many reasons why having more satellite offices wouldn't be hugely beneficial and I would estimate that of the people I know, more than 50% of them work in jobs that could be done from a smaller local office. Perhaps the government should be spending £50bn on this scheme instead.

1 comment:

  1. I followed the link here from your comment on CiF.

    All that you write is true. It is how things used to be before IT came along. Management has used IT as a tool to centralise and exercise authority and direct control.

    And in doing so have failed to understand that effective and efficient networks are distributed and that makes them robust.

    It would be great to work out the real cost of commuting in terms of the environment, increased costs of health provision and the effect on children of child care as they go through adulthood.

    I can't see it happening. Because the Govt. has bought into the centralisation gig as well.

    Distributed networks of workers would build robust and sustainable communities by their presence.