Third Place Thursdays--Save Gas, Spare the Air, Raise Productivity

In my new book Jump Point, I argue that Internet “culture” is going to change the way we live, work and play in the next 1000 days.  I want to offer a specific opportunity right now: companies should set aside one day a week for employees to work remotely.  Let’s call it “Third Place Thursdays.”

At $5 for a gallon of gas, it is no longer a rational approach to business resource management to impel most office employees to spend time and gas (not to mention spewing millions of pounds of carbon compounds into the air) commuting an hour each day to an office complex where we warehouse them–heat them in the winter, cool them in the summer–only to have them spend the day emailing to (or otherwise networking with) colleagues in next door cubicles.  That is more than dumb, it is irresponsible.

The fact is, we have the technology today to reinvent the way we work.  We simply need to change our thinking.

Third Place Thursdays (Don’t like Thursday? Pick a day) pays recognition to the possibility that technology can improve the way we work–and maybe save the planet too.

Thanks to the ubiquity of notebook computers, BlackBerrys, readily available WiFi, plain old mobile phones–it is now practicable to do productive work from a remote location.  Those of us who travel a lot do it all the time.  Why not take a day–20 percent of the work week–and allow employees to work from a “third place”–not the office, not necessarily the home.  Keeping employees off the highways and byways saves time, gas and the environment–and in all likelihood, will produce a better work product.  The effects could be life- and economy-changing.

Sample HR Policy:

Unless business conditions dictate otherwise, and at the discretion of supervisors, employees are encouraged to work remotely on Thursdays.  Please check with your managers and work teams to be sure remote work is both appropriate for and possible within your group.

Come gather you information workers and symbol manipulators: instead of inching along in mind-numbing freeway traffic just to attend an endless series of phone or online meetings, you could walk down to a neighborhood Starbucks, stroll to a nearby park bench, or take public transportation to the beach, crack open a networked computer and do the best work of your week.  Work long, work hard, get out of the house, avoid the office commute, be a human.  As an employee, what’s not to like?

The benefits are even greater to organizations–and most are ready to adopt a remote work scheme.  In my career as an executive at companies like HP and Applied Materials, I have had hundreds of employees who worked away from me geographically.  In fact, in more than a few cases, due to geographic distribution I had never (ever) met face-to-face with some of my best, most loyal, most productive employees.  But, I interacted with them routinely throughout the day.  Being under my thumb didn’t make people work harder or better.  Respect did.  And now technology can make remote work easier to imagine.

Progressive companies like Intel and US Cellular have implemented Email-Free Fridays, as a means to manage information overload.  That idea seems to be gaining traction.  As a way to tap technology culture to improve our lives, Third Place Thursdays goes that idea 10x better.  Propose the idea to your company management and let us know what happens.  It only takes an intrepid few to change the world.

Have an opinion or want to start a movement; write to me at [email protected]