Home is where IT is!

July 2nd, 2009

A new Sea Link, new flyovers, metro railway, mono rail… you name it, Mumbai is getting everything short of a 7:13 Zeppelin service (fast) from Borivali to Nariman Point. And the city is so dug-up during this monsoon that soon the time taken for the daily commute will be in double digits – at least for some days. But wait a minute – do we need all these bridges, flyovers, metro service, additional trains? Do all the people travelling from the suburbs to town need to travel? Is there anyone out there thinking of the beautiful possibility of 20-30 per cent of commuters staying at home and working – at least for three days a week?
Imagine firms that encourage  part of their workforce to log-on from home  (call them e-force if you want) and be supervised by seniors who are similarly working from home? Fast Net connectivity, cheap cellphones and video conferencing possibilities can be exercised to the fullest, right? Once or twice a week teams can meet up, play their social roles and even do real meetings where coffee and biscuits are served.
BMC can then reward those organisations with, say, 30 per cent employees working from home at any given point of time, with lower taxes. This move will certainly reduce traffic, number of deaths on railway tracks, wastage of fuel, electricity use and the need for never-ending digging for better ‘infrastructure’.
Sure, if you moot this idea at your office there will be strong resistance by those people who can be called ‘traditional’. The physical presence of boss and employees under one roof is not required any more – alright it cannot be abolished overnight, but a beginning can certainly be made. In a maximum city like Mumbai, there is no better reward to give employees than a few commute-free days.
I can talk about newspaper organisations because I have been working in one for 14-odd years. Honestly, there is no real need that I can see for reporters travelling to an office, holding meeting with seniors, scurrying out to meet contacts and attend press conferences and returning to office to file copies. Instead they can wake up in the morning, have an e-conference with the respective editors, talk to contacts over the phone, or if necessary, travel directly to meet people or attend conferences and file copy from wherever they are. Yes, a desk that can lay out pages needs to travel to an office every day – but that constitutes less than 20 per cent of a newspaper edition.
Today if you commute everyday for two hours to stare into a computer screen and then another two hours to reach home, it can be termed a criminal wastage of resources, time, energy and terrible under-utilisation of available technology.
Oh…its 6 PM? I got to leave…two hour commute in the rain, you see!

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