Europe celebrates European Telework Week from 9 November in recognition of a workplace phenomenon of the 1990s. Teleworking - where, instead of commuting, an office worker stays at home or travels to a neighbourhood work centre and uses a computer linked to the company by a telephone line - is taking off.

With an estimated 1.25 million teleworkers in Europe today, a figure which is growing by 40 per cent per year, there will be ten million by the end of the decade, analysts say.

Senior officials at the European Commission see benefits in flexible working - boosting local employment, cutting business costs, and making better use of skills while at the same time cutting back on the need for large city-centre offices.

For large companies, teleworking can improve efficiency and motivation for valuable staff. There are obvious advantages for people wanting flexible work - those looking after children for example - and people in rural areas with difficult transport.

"The organisation of tomorrow will not have standard ways of working", said Cochrane, one of Europe's gurus of corporate transformation. "As a result, companies are going to need to be more flexible and responsive."

But he warns that no one should be forced into teleworking: "Voluntary - not compulsory - arrangements are the ones that work. People need to be prepared for teleworking, as do those who manage them. I know some organisations which even hold board meetings by telephone conference calls. Work patterns are changing. Good communication is essential."

The European, 2-8 november 1995

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