BT operators in year-long 'teleworking' experiment

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The Independent Online
SHONA McGOUGAN began her working day as a British Telecom directory enquiries operator yesterday by walking from her kitchen to a converted spare room in her home at Fortrose, north of Inverness in Scotland.

Her home office - complete with visual display unit, keyboard, video phone and customised computer exchange - is part of a BT experiment.

Ten directory enquiry operators from BT's Inverness centre are taking part in the 12-month 'teleworking' experiment. Jointly funded by BT and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, a government development agency, the project aims to test a pounds 16m system of advanced telecommunications technology while also studying the pyschological impact on employees of working from home.

The Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), allows the transmitting and receiving of voice, data, images and text to be sent down a single telephone line.

The project manager, Mike Gray, said: 'By 1995 more than two million people could be working from home for at least three days a week.'

A further aim is to develop support systems to ease the change in lifestyle from office to home. 'Nowhere in the world has anyone ever used electronic mail and videos in this way,' Mr Gray added.

Mrs McGougan estimates that she will save pounds 50 on travelling each month and avoid 45 minutes of peak traffic en route to work. Socially she has no complaints so far. 'The video phone keeps you in touch with the office. And we can use it to contact the welfare room where colleagues can keep me up to date with the latest office gossip.' The operators will have to report for a weekly briefing.

Ian Robertson, chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: 'The fact this experiment is happening in the Highlands illustrates that location is no barrier to distance working.'