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Skive aid

As the alarm went off for the third time this chill morning (hitting the snooze button having become an unconscious reflex), my thoughts turned to working from home: namely, how nice it would be if I ever got to do it.

Unfortunately, the pressures and practicalities of the exciting world of magazine publishing being what they are, it just isn't feasible for yours truly. Which is probably for the best, given the unique lure of the PlayStation and The Simpsons: Hit and Run.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when a press release on that very subject (working from home, not The Simpsons: Hit and Run) appeared in the PC Advisor inbox after I arrived in the office. British workers (it says here) spend by far the most time travelling to and from work in Europe, so it's about time they were cut a bit of slack, and allowed to spend the odd day filling in spreadsheets in their pyjamas.

To this end, a National Work From Home Day has been declared for 5 May, so start lobbying your bosses (or, if you are a boss, get some excuses ready). This could be where technology really does make our lives better, allowing us to work via mobile devices, video-conference over the internet and carry around work files on secure backup devices – and yes, maybe even play the odd game in a spare moment (make sure to ask your supervisor!).

Here's the press release:

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SMART WORKERS URGED TO STAY AWAY THE FIRST FRIDAY IN MAY

Friday May 5 has been designated NATIONAL WORK FROM HOME DAY by Work Wise UK, the national three-year campaign promoting the wider adoption of smarter working practices, such as flexible working, mobile working, remote working and working from home.

Organisations and employees across the UK are being encouraged to try out home working on National Work From Home Day as part of Work Wise Week (3-9 May) which will highlight the benefits of smarter working practices generally.

Working from home, even for part of the working week, would greatly enhance people's work-life balance. The reduction in travel alone could save several hours per day, freeing up time to spend at home with the family or on leisure activities. British workers spend by far the longest time travelling in Europe – as much as 47 working days per year (Samsung research 2004), with commuters in the South East facing an average of eight hours per week – a whole extra working day!

The savings will not only be in time but also in cash: apart from the transport costs there is the cappuccino and Danish on the way to the office, lunch in the pub and, for some, congestion charges and parking.

Subsequent reductions in traffic volumes and passenger numbers on public transport will result in less congestion and overcrowding, making travel a more bearable chore for people who have no choice but to travel. Less travel also means less pollution and CO2 emissions.

Phil Flaxton, chief executive of the IT Forum Foundation, the non-profit organisation behind the campaign, said: "For many, home working is a far more productive and pleasant environment than the workplace.

"National Work from Home Day is not intended as a holiday, or an extension of the weekend. Its aim is to let staff, and employers, see just how it could work – how productive we all can be."

The concept of smarter working has been around for many years, but it is the recent advances in technology which will have had a huge part to play in enabling its wider adoption. The continuing widespread growth of faster broadband across the UK, and the great steps made in mobile technology, are opening the door for a large cross-section of the UK population to benefit from smarter working.

BT is the first strategic partner to join Work Wise UK and this is fitting as the company represents the UK's largest exponent of flexible working practices. BT currently employs 64,000 flexible workers and 11,500 contracted full-time home workers.

Caroline Waters, director, people and policy, BT, said: "The benefits of flexible working are enormous and the impact on productivity and employee satisfaction due to an improved work/life balance has been underlined by trusted organisations such as the DTI, CBI and TUC.

"As the leading practitioner of flexible working in the UK, we are delighted to be supporting this initiative and look forward to taking part in Work Wise week. However, without training and guidance the UK's workforce will not be able to fully embrace a smarter way or working or experience all the potential benefits. It is vital that an organisation like Work Wise UK is on hand to provide helpful advice and support for both employers and employees as they strive to change deep seated cultural associations with work and working practices for the benefit of the country as a whole."

Further information about Work Wise UK, and how organisations can participate in Work Wise Week, can be found on the website WorkWiseUK.org.

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