The immense value to Freedom of Place

Freedom of Place

Covid-19 has taught us the value of something we never noticed before. There isn’t only a value to freedom of time. There is also immense value to freedom of place.

Rory Sutherland, writing in The Spectator “Have you caught the remote-working bug?”

As the world of work seeks to adjust to “going back”, thank you to Farnam Street for guiding me to another thought-provoking piece by Rory Sutherland around the behavioural aspects of this shift.

Nearly two months ago I was writing on this, with posts such as: “Connected Working“, “What can you do better online than offline?” and “What comes next – will you go back to the office?“. In those articles I talked about the benefits of applying the learnings from so many being rapidly forced to work from home, work remotely etc.

I also touched on behavioural aspects, so naturally I love Rory’s article. He is one of the top behavioural thinkers I know. Often curmudgeonly, always curious and always, (underneath it all) overwhelmingly positive about the wondrous possibilities of we humans!

His latest Spectator article is a wonderful example of this, starting with some grounding on how complex we humans are and how behaviour change is often difficult and unpredictable, yet at the end finishing on a positive note:

..Behaviour is contagious because we catch it from other people. Much of what we do results from unconscious mimicry of others around us.

…So it has been obvious for a number of years that new forms of technology could allow many of us to work in dramatically different and better ways — yet outside a few clusters and experimental settings the remote-working virus has never taken hold. People continued cramming on to crowded trains to get to the office at 9 a.m., only to spend the first two hours of the day reading emails on a screen which would have looked exactly the same had they been at home — or at the beach.

Perhaps presenteeism — the ‘cowpox’ to flexible working’s ‘smallpox’ — is even more contagious than remote working. In fact the transmissibility of remote working is very low. All it takes is one boss who is obsessed with seeing people at their desks, or two competing saddo colleagues who make a big show of turning up in the office early, and your workplace’s R(0) falls to zero.

…Yet Covid-19 has taught us the value of something we never noticed before. There isn’t only a value to freedom of time. There is also immense value to freedom of place. Perhaps the flexible-working bug won’t go away any time soon.

Rory Sutherland, writing in The Spectator “Have you caught the remote-working bug?”

Also published on Medium.