May 03, 2018 2 Comments

Four hundred years ago, a french philosopher by the name of Blaise Pascal knew that:

“All of man’s misfortune comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room”

But let’s be honest, locking people away for the sake of empty streets is not an option, nor should it be.

When the personal computer conquered the world in the good old 80s and the term ‘network’ gained more meaning, many believed that traffic jams soon would be a thing of the past. The so called ‘home office’ was supposed to be the secret weapon in the battle against the rush hour and big players like IBM were spearheading this concept from the early days. Why would anybody have to drive to his place of work if they don’t actually have to be there to interact with it in a physical way?

Traffic congestion is a child of the industrial revolution due to it’s characteristic separation of one’s place of living and the place of work. This urban new world required the implementation mass transportation trains, trams and subways. The streets turned into a conveyor belt of humans and thanks to the introduction of shift work -three times a day – the well known and dreaded cultural phenomenon of the “Rush Hour” was called into life. And to this day, most people that commute to work spend hours and hours on their way to work wondering “… why is there so much traffic?” The truth is, you are not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic.

But what about those of us who are digitally connected to our clients, business partners and colleagues? Surely we could follow Pascal’s wisdom and stay and work from within our room all day in order to rake in the societal benefits of this newly found efficiency. The employees wouldn’t have to waste their valuable time in traffic anymore, employers could save on their infrastructure cost in terms of office space – that is often located in the most expensive parts of town – and finally, it would benefit the environment due to the decrease in traffic related pollution.

Unfortunately, as we had to realize over time, this assumption was just as wrong as the introduction of driving bans or other forceful measures that were aiming to reduce traffic. According to the bureau of labor statistics “24 percent of employed people did some or all of their work at home in 2015”. And while this percentage is continuously growing, many people simply don’t want to stay quietly in their room because they soon realize that this mode of work comes with it’s own set of challenges. Especially in companies that did not start up in the last 10 years, working from home can have a negative impact on one’s career and recognition among colleagues.These more traditional organizations have gotten used to the old ways of doing things and once a company culture is established, it’s very difficult to change it.

Our industrialized society still dictates pace of work even while we are in transition to an information based economy. This culture stems from a time where work was often merely defined by being physically present. To show up at work before anyone else and staying in the office longer than the rest would be seen as ambitious and would come with bragging rights. On the other hand, working from home on a more flexible schedule is often seen as second class work. In some countries it can even be seen as a demotion, or just as a simulation of actual work. Aside from all that, it is clear that social interactions are beneficial on many levels of business.

Mobility is experimentation. What is the right amount of physical presence for the job? How flexible can and should we define our work environments? How much independence is good for us and how far should we be integrated in our work environment? Just like in traffic, the likely answer is that it might be best to stop dictating this or that. Instead we should focus on designing flexible systems that allow for people to do what makes most sense in their situation. What is the goal of all this one might ask? I think that the goal should always be to find a more comfortable solution that creates more time for people to do the things they like. Stop driving in circles and sitting in traffic. Mobility is culture and it starts in the mind.


Written by Kamil Banc, Product Manager and Co-Founder at Stark Mobility 

2 Responses

Kamil Banc
Kamil Banc

May 22, 2018

Hi Ashley,
Thanks for the question. Here at Stark Mobility we do a little bit of both. While our main office is located in Berlin, about half the team lives in other parts of Europe but we all meet in Berlin or at events around the globe. So far it’s been working great but we do miss the occasional water cooler talk.

Ashley McDonnough
Ashley McDonnough

May 16, 2018

Great questions! We continuously ask ourselves the same questions here at the Google Campus. Quite a few people barely come to “work” these day but are super productive, while others are here everyday. I think it is a combination that makes the most sense. Really depends on the type of work and the type of people doing the work. For me I think interacting with the people I work with directly in the same place is a huge plus. But I do not need it ALL the time. What are you guys doing at Stark? Do you have a office where everyone works from? Or is it mostly remote? Seems like you would need a place for your engineers, your parts, your boards, etc. No? Just curious….

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