Location Independent Working

This week I popped up to Edinburgh for the JISC Conference. The conference is an opportunity for JISC to showcase many of their projects and an opportunity for us working in the UK Higher Education sector to find out what other institutions are working on.

During the ‘Making the move to Green‘ session I heard David Morris, Professor of Business Education from the University of Coventry talking about the Location Independent Working (LIW) project. The project, which has recently finished, was part of the Institutional Innovation Programme and in Morris’ own words both an attempt to “legitimise home working” and investigate further the proposition that “it’s not about where you work, it’s what you so that counts“. There is a good write up in the Times Higher.

The project took 40 members of staff and offered them an equipment toolkit, training and a LIW handbook which would allow them to work in locations other than their office. There was also a support blog. It then measured the affects this arrangement had on a number of factors including health, work-life balance, communication etc.

I think the project, although interesting, is not necessarily revolutionary and the measured outcomes at the end were not surprising. What it does show is the interest the Higher Education sector has in further exploring the arena of remote working. Remote working has the potential to get HE out of a sticky mess when it comes to space and environmental drivers.

Morris alluded to the fact that there are still many potential areas of further research. One of these touches on a question that many remote workers ask themselves (primarily for financial reasons) – Am I using more heating and electricity here at home than I would if I were in the office? I’m going to be watching the LIW blog with interest.

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4 thoughts on “Location Independent Working

  1. For some reason my name was wrongly recorded for that part of the JISC Conference, but it’s right here.

    In some ways I am pleased that the outcomes of the LIW project are unsurprising; to have our very positive initial views of the benefits of LIW confirmed in practice is quite gratifying. Nor do I think that a revolutionary approach would get the broad buy-in from the wide range of parties that the project needed in order to succeed.

    There are some interesting results, though. Firstly there is the role of middle managers – mainly departmental heads. They are stuck between trying to deliver university aims and plans and keeping the show going for the students. Some of them think they can only do this if their colleagues are being seen (physically) and heard. I don’t think it is a control desire, but it certainly seems to have to do with learning to trust LIW colleagues. Another interesting outcome was that we were wrong about the kinds of spaces that LIW staff would want when they were on campus. We thought we would have to bribe them by creating little palaces for them to use. In fact the most important issue for them was proximity to their colleagues on a subject basis; they didn’t want to be made to feel wanted by being given smart spaces to work in. They did want to be wanted by being given space where everyone else was. Ex post it is obvious; ex ante we didn’t see it.

  2. Hi David,

    Really sorry about your name. I had you down in my scribbles as David but then the JISC page said George and I thought they’d know best.

    I’m glad you took ‘unsurprising’ and ‘not revolutionary’ in the spirit they were intended. Having worked off site for almost a year now the benefits are so clearly apparent that I am surprised when I read reports suggesting otherwise. Of course there are many challenges and the whole ‘trust’ factor is definitely one of them.

    I’d also agree with your point about on-site space. I had a discussion not long ago with our admin team about what sort of hotdesks the remote workers would need. Eventually we agreed that it was relatively low priority and having an available plug socket in different offices was more important!

    I really enjoyed hearing about your project and hope you get more funding to research other areas. Some of the challenges I am particularly interested in are changing people’s perspectives of remote workers, motivation and IT support for those out of the office.

    Thanks again

    Marieke

  3. Pingback: HotStuff 2.0 » Blog Archive » Word of the Day: “jisc09″

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