Last night I went to an ACS talk about teleworking. Against my expectations, I actually really enjoyed it. Within five minutes the presenter — Bevis England: a neat, friendly, almost English-sounding Kiwi — had mentioned peak oil and the way in which biofuel production is pushing up food prices. The environmental benefits of teleworking have always been quite apparent to me, and it was good to see these issues being aired at an ACS function.

He also spoke about the difficulty with telework being the only mode of work for an emloyee. Generally, one or two days each week should be spent in a more communal workspace — but this is of course when one is thinking about teleworking as ‘working from home’ and working alone, and not other arrangements such as telecottaging (which poorly-named practice, I must add, has no relationship to ‘cottaging’). People have complained that it is hard to share knowledge with their co-workers when teleworking, but the results of studies of the actual situation (and not just perception) show that it can be easier for teleworkers to share knowledge. This struck a chord with me also: thinking about the differences in the levels of collaboration and documentation at IBM as compared to any of a number of open source project that I’ve been involved in. At IBM, there are people doing very similar work but who never share anything about how best to do the work ( and I realise, of course, that this is more to do with the culture at IBM than anything else), but who can imagine a FOSS project these days that doesn’t have a wiki?!

All up, and depite feeling pretty rotten all day yesterday, I enjoyed the talk. The question session was a bit of a failure, though, with England fiddling with the computer to try to explain a point that wasn’t really connected to the question he’d been asked. I got the impression that there were also people there who were just trying to ‘catch him out’, to show that teleworking isn’t any good — as though the fact, for example, that the company doesn’t benefit from reduced traffic and CO2 emssions means that these things are not worth working for! But perhaps I’m too harsh.

(Kudos must go to the ACS, by the way, for providing what I most want at that time of the day: a glass of wine! And the hors d’œuvres even had vegetarian eatability; all most unexpected.)