I'm getting wired for alife in the country

Say goodbye to stress and Pret a Manger lunchesand hello to increased productivity at home
Click to follow
The Independent Online

IT'S OFFICIAL: the end of city living is uponus. According to the latest United Nations forecast, London isshrinking, Paris has stopped growing and New York and Tokyo are slowingdown. It seems the cool thing to do is to dump the city dirt, getISDN, and head for the hills, computer and printer in tow.

IT'S OFFICIAL: the end of city living is uponus. According to the latest United Nations forecast, London isshrinking, Paris has stopped growing and New York and Tokyo are slowingdown. It seems the cool thing to do is to dump the city dirt, getISDN, and head for the hills, computer and printer in tow.

Yet thisis not an "I'm-tired-of-life" scenario or a repeat of thehippy exodus of the 1960s. It's a radically different migration of youngprofessionals who are finally able to free themselves from the constraints of theoffice and able to take the job with them to a cottage in the countryside.The key to modern living seems to be: to keep the city income but live closeto nature, in a barn, far away from the misery of privatised trains andthe Northern Line.

With the high cost of office space hitting the pocketsof large companies, a growing number of UK bosses are coming around to thenotion of their key people working most of, or even the whole week, fromhome. I've seen some intriguing new titles popping up on the managerialcourse lists, such as "How to manage Virtual Teams" or"Motivating the Internet Telecommuter". Better late than never, Isay, as the technology has been here for a while now, but the old workhabits of many companies die hard.

Studies of remote working indicate thatteleworkers are more productive than their office-based counterparts.This is not surprising, considering how uncomfortable most offices are thesedays. At home you can "personalise" your workspace in the same wayyou manage My Yahoo!. The office is a big, faceless, blandportal, where your plants are standard issue, your furniture picked outby office managers to fit their safety standards and your computer is at leastthree upgrades behind the curve, as your IT department is deep in the Y2Kfreeze.

At home, you set up your own IT standards, your plants canbe the most offensive man-eating weeds and, instead of queuing in thecanteen, your favourite sushi is in the fridge, delivered daily by theweb-based Japanese grocer. Work from home and you will never have to faceanother rushed Pret A Manger lunch. You can be obsessively clean or radicallymessy, and nobody will care. But the best thing is that you can watchyour bank balance grow on the back of your increased productivity that youobtained through the cut in your commuting time to the 10 seconds it takes towalk from your bedroom to studio.

What has allowed some of my close friendsto liberate themselves from the chains of the office is the falling costs ofISDN. You now can run a fairly efficient home office communications systemfor the same money you would spend on a season ticket. In addition,considering that the average commuting time is around seven and a half hours perweek, your productivity will go up and your fatigue and stress levels will godown.

Teleworking has much in common with the old agrarian model ofsociety, where life was firmly centered around the home. Farmers andvillage folk worked and spent their social time where they lived. Thedownside was that all you had for social interaction was a small pool ofneighbours - too bad if you didn't like them.

Today,though, with chat rooms, e-mail, newsgroups and onlinecommunities, there is the same level of virtual social activity as in thephysical space marked by pubs, wine bars and cafes. But the people inthese virtual cities are drawn from a much larger pool, and so are a lot morelikely to produce a few individuals whom you actually like.

I have noticedthat a lot of virtual work teams have also become their own support communities- and not just on work-related issues. Online work and life blendtogether seamlessly, without the sharp cut-off that is imposed by longcommuting distances. The modern, digital world doesn't have acentre, so you should never feel "out of it", even if you workfrom some tiny hamlet in Devon.

By the year 2010, it has been estimatedthat around 18 per cent of us will be working from home. Those homes are mostlikely to be away from the cities, with the trend towards village living.The post-agrarian, techno-rural lifestyle will change the way we dobusiness, conduct social life and shop.

If the current trendcontinues, within the next few years London will be left to tourists,civil servants and politicians, the rest of the working population hooked upat home with their computers, breathing the fresh country air, takinglong walks during lunchtime and getting their city- size pay-cheques forincreased productivity.

I'm ready to swap the city loft for a barn witha satellite Internet connection - as long as I don't have to use avideophone. Wiltshire, here I come.

Comments