Chrome collar: The future of work pt. 2

by 03 Dec 2013
Workplace trends come and go, but with technological advancements across the board giving rise to new methods of communication and work these trends are flaring up quicker than ever. While the biggest of these, teleworking, is hot on the lips of every entrepreneur and consultant, two more distinct topics are being addressed by other professionals.

Yesterday, HC examined the increasing use of video conferencing. Today, we look at an approaching trend that will keep individuals meeting face-to-face: supercommuting.

Sam Cookney, UK market manager at Traackr, made headlines when he published a blog post after figuring out it would be cheaper to rent a two-bed flat in Barcelona and commute to London every day for work than his current living situation in which he lives in London.

While rent in London is notoriously high (Cookney himself detailed that a two-bed flat in West Hampstead was 2,018 pounds a month [$A3,631]), the post sparked conversation among professionals around the idea of supercommuting, and how it fits into the future of work.

“Even if it’s really just a fancy way of commuting to work, the thought that we could be sitting at our desk in London and then, just hours later, be sipping rioja on our balcony overlooking the Mediterranean, is still impossibly awesome,” Alissa Walker wrote in an article published by Gizmodo.

Walker cited John D. Kasarda and Greg Linday’s book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next’s details about how low-cost airlines have altered commuting patterns for Europeans as an indication of how supercommuting could be a possibility.

Furthermore, supercommuting generates ‘city labour sheds’ – a name given to those cities and towns where the population who live there actually work in far-away locations. Walker gave the example of North California becoming part of LA’s city labour shed. This could impact the economy of these cities in ways not seen before.

The concept is not entirely new. A report from Future Forum in 2006 predicted 1.5 million workers in the UK would live overseas in areas such as Barcelona, Marrakech and Tallinn, and fly into Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted to work.

"I couldn't afford this quality of life in London - or else I'd have to be working every hour of every day. In Barcelona, you don't need as much to live on - everything from rent, food and clothes is cheaper,” Carrie Frais, a news presenter who worked in London but lived in Barcelona in 2006, told The BBC.

Advancements in supercommuting could also affect Australia’s FIFO workforce. Taking just one example, a report from Compass Group found that 70% of FIFO workers were deemed overweight or obese. This is perhaps due to the long shifts, irregular hours, travel and unusual sleeping patterns these individuals are faced with.

If airlines or yet-to-be-completed methods of fast travel (such as Elon Musk’s Hyperloop design, a superfast rail system initially planned to travel between LA and San Francisco in 35 minutes) were to accommodate for overseas or state-crossing commutes became the norm, this would counter some of these problems by providing a more normalised working life. Instead of flying into and staying in a mining community, they would be able to quickly travel between the mine for a shift and then return home.
What do you think of supercommuting? Does the idea interest you, or does it seem facetious? Would you like to see a third addition of Chrome Collar exploring another future-working concept?


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