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Could you take your city job to the countryside?

An internet connection is all you need, says Alasdair Mitchell. Whilst rural broadband speeds don't facilitate working from rural settings, satellite broadband could be good enough.

home office

Shooting may be a rural activity, but a lot of shooters actually live in built-up areas. For many, there is no real choice, given the constraints of work, schools and family life. To live in the countryside is no more than a dream… or is it?

The daily grind of travelling to an office or a factory is something that wastes a huge chunk of most people’s lives. I have done my fair share of long-distance commuting — never again. Nowadays, I am fortunate that my office is just 19 scenic, traffic-free miles from my home, which is itself a working farm set within a national park. Every morning, I remind myself of how lucky I am.

My wife takes the concept one stage further (or rather, closer). For the past decade, she has worked from an office on our farm. Her head office is near London, 280 miles away. She goes down there once a month, flying from an airport just 35 minutes from home. In fact, she flies all over the world from that same airport.

Now, our broadband speeds are rubbish and there isn’t a mobile signal within a mile of our place. So she uses satellite broadband and a mobile signal relay. Occasionally we get a powercut, but when that happens she simply decamps with her laptop and spends a day at a friend’s, or in a café with free wireless Internet.

Moreover, my eldest son has just started working for a company that operates in many countries but has just one tiny admin office, in Texas. He’s hiring a desk space in Edinburgh, where he has chosen to live for lifestyle reasons. His line manager is based in Spain. The managing director is Canadian. The employees communicate with each other every day via email and Skype.

The point I am making is that for many folk, telecommuting — either from home or a small satellite office — is a practical reality. There are already 4.3million teleworkers in the UK, and their ranks are swelling.

Telecommuting is not for everybody. Some miss the social interaction (aka water-cooler gossip). And it does take a certain amount of self-discipline. I personally like to go from home into an office and have a change of scenery.

But remember, telecommuting doesn’t have to mean that you never see your colleagues, or that you end up working in pyjamas, hunched over a cluttered desk in the corner of your bedroom, being constantly interrupted. In many cases, the only real opposition to remote working comes from managers who won’t trust the people they’ve hired and resort to micro-management. Many regard homeworking as skiving. Others echo the sentiments of London mayor Boris Johnson, who said of homeworking: “We all know that it is basically sitting wondering whether to go to the fridge to hack off that bit of cheese before checking your emails again.” (Boris should know. He works from home on Fridays).

Yet studies have shown that teleworkers are generally more productive than their office- based colleagues. This isn’t surprising, given the lack of a hassle-filled, energy-sapping daily commute and the ability to dip into work at all hours as need dictates.

Apart from huge cost savings entailed in telecommuting, the business also benefits from being able to employ talented people who wouldn’t dream of moving their family to wherever head office happens to have washed up for some weird historical reason. Too many head offices have become remote from their customers and too many companies find themselves having to fish for employees in
a tiny pool.

For teleworkers, the rewards are obvious. Yet there are also drawbacks. Research suggests that remote workers are often overlooked for promotion and pay rises simply because they are not there, in front of senior executives.

I suspect that, like the much-vaunted paperless office, teleworking will never be the norm. But it is worth exploring. Maybe you too could live, work and play in the countryside.