Olympics says danke to WAHNC
Although we have yet to see how the beach volleyball will affect London’s infrastructure, the road and rail networks so far have been rather resilient despite my earlier criticism that we all might be holed up in Little Chefs during the long march back from the Olympics.
But the lack of similar Beijing barmyness on the roads and rail is not because of the confusing Olympic lanes on the M4, and roads near Olympic sites or the lack of industrial action. It’s not even down to the jingoistic rhetoric of London mayor BoJo about several years of careful planning (that sees London currently carved up by Cross Rail)
The reason, it seems, is that there has been a universal acceptance that if the infrastructure can’t work under normal conditions its going to break and break big time during the Olympics.
But unlike previous years, there is a work around for companies trying to cope with getting employees to work during the Games and this is thankfully due to technology or more specifically more WAHNCing (Work At Home with Network Connection) as industry watchers are calling this new paradigm.
Because most of you Engles have fast broadband connectivity these days, many London firms have encouraged workers to avoid the senseless commute into the capital during the Games and do something that hopefully many companies will look at more after the Olympics are over – home working.
Not only could it reduce the number of stress related illness that commuting gives thousands of people, but it could save firms a packet in subsidised rail and travel expenses.
It can also reduce the overall carbon footprint for the country as a whole and increase productivity of the workforce because home workers are impervious to the actions of some senseless bastard who has stolen the cables on the Reading to Waterloo stretch of the rail network.
And watching the Opening Ceremony of the Games, it made me question why we haven’t really changed the structure of how we work, even in the modern era of knowledge workers, since Arkwright started having grand designs about mills.
And in an age of rising fuel costs, global warming and increased connectivity why haven’t we made more radical changes to the way we all work?
The short answer is because until recently, the equipment to do the work required was expensive and required employees to travel to the offices or workplaces where this expensive kit was installed.
In the same principle as the manufacturing shop floors of the industrial revolution, the offices of the modern knowledge worker era have typically found the middle classes in the oak panelled offices with pipe racks and at least two different coloured Bakelite telephones as “managers” and the working folk in open plan or cubicle arrays of production slaving over the silicon and telephonic equivalent of the Spinning Jenny.
While in the past, the “manager” might pop out and walk the floor to make sure there isn’t a crafty game of shove ha’penny going on, today the same managers are making sure there is not too much Facebooking going on.
It’s bonkers, broken and has to change
And in an era of cloud, broadband and BYOD companies will have to start radically thinking about how companies are structured, connected and operate in the future and I hope the example and experience of the Olympics will a lasting intellectual legacy of what can be achieved.