Motorway madness: Service stations do not for a good office environment make


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The Independent Online

We’ve all seen them, the in-transit workaholics.

The chap in Premium Economy spending his flight moodily tapping at a spreadsheet on his MacBook Air; the businesswoman on Northern Rail searching under the table for a socket to plug in her Vaio laptop; the young executive in the Take a Break facility on the M3, clenched over his iPad, apparently designing a completely new marketing strategy for his company. These people radiate modern virtues: focus, energy, a drive that’s miles beyond the call of duty, a reluctance to be distracted from their vital work. They are a credit to the national economy.

So it was intriguing to find that, in the  first-ever survey of on-the-move working  conditions, published in Work, Employment  and Society, most of the respondents whined  and complained about their lot. The noise  of trains and aircraft distracted them; the  cramped conditions inhibited their flow of thought; the struggle to deal with electronic devices amid crowds led some of them (unimaginably) to work with pen and paper. And the  place which these tireless executives found  most congenial for work was “in vehicles in  the car park of a motorway service station”.  The glamour!

Does this mean we can start to feel sorry for this mobile workforce, instead of admiring their unsleeping devotion to the corporate gods? Maybe, on reading the findings of this survey, they will start to wonder if they should spend more of their travel time doing other things than working: reading a book, filling in a crossword, wondering about the lives of other people in the carriage.

In a world increasingly dominated by screens, keyboards and electronic stimuli, it could be the start of a counter-revolution.