Pros and cons of 21st century "anytime, anywhere" working revealed

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A young woman looking at her cell phone in Washington, USA. Photo World Bank/Simone D. McCourtie

Mobile technology makes it possible to work outside the office to the benefit – and detriment – of companies, workers and their families, the UN said on Wednesday.

In a study of 15 countries, a joint International Labour Organization (ILO) – Eurofound report noted that new information and communications technologies have revolutionized work in the 21st century.

But researchers found wide variations in so-called "teleworking" trends too.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Mobile devices that connect to the internet like smart phones and tablets can provide constant connectivity to the office, if you want it.

That means you could do your work anytime, anywhere.

According to researchers from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and partner Eurofound, the 21st century phenomenon is growing in most of the 15 countries under review.

Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States have relatively high shares of "anytime, anywhere" workers, though not necessarily on a regular basis.

In France however, teleworking has not been rolled out in most large businesses, and in Hungary only around one per cent of people regularly work from home.

There are advantages to tele-commuting, both for employer and employee: among them, the fact that it saves on overheads and cuts down on travel time to the office.

But there are downsides too, as Oscar Vargas, co-author of the report at ILO partner Eurofound, says:

"These workers tend to work longer, also this type of work tends to create an overlap between paid and personal life and in the end can result in work intensification."

Across the European Union, it's estimated that at least 17 per cent of employees do some work outside the office.

One last finding: while teleworking has come a long way since it was invented in California in the 1970s, the fact that it's still far from general practice for everyone is perhaps proof of the enduring appeal of doing some business face to face.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'32"

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