Summary:

Gloomy February is generally in need of more celebrations, and it has gotten one: Anywhere Working Week is on now. But this initiative from UK business, government and nonprofits to promote remote work is hardly getting pulses racing. Flexible work deserves a higher profile.

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February may be the shortest month, but as many in the Northern hemisphere can attest, it usually doesn’t feel like it. With winter grinding along and the post-holiday comedown hitting home, it is generally one of the gloomiest months of the year. No offence, Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day (itself a source of depression for many), but it is a month in obvious need of more holidays.

Luckily, we now have one. A whole week’s worth of celebrating remote work, in fact. It may not sell as many roses or chocolates as that better-known mid-month holiday, but Anywhere Working Week is now in full swing in the UK. Announced late last year with the support of MP Norman Baker, the seven-day event to highlight the personal, business and environmental benefits of flexible and remote working has a fistful of big-name founders, including Business in the Community, Microsoft, Nokia, Nuffield, Regus, Vodafone UK and Transport for London, and it is also supported by the UK Department for Transport, WWF and the Trades Union Congress.

“It’s no longer viable for businesses to stick to rigid, inefficient ways of working if they want to compete successfully in the market,” says Gordon Frazer, the managing director at Microsoft UK on the initiative’s home page, and the weeklong event is meant to promote these more flexible practices. To spur participation the sponsors are offering giveaways to those who sign up as supporters, as well as a handy calculator that British individuals can use to find out how much they would save by working remotely.

As the Digital Workplace Forum points out, the event is hardly making waves and compares it unfavorably to a similar but more cleverly promoted event in the Netherlands. The Forum blames the British government for its lackluster support, saying:

The lack of visible ‘oomph’ with Anywhere Working week is disappointing. . . . For all the positive benefits which flow from the Digital Workplace we believe the UK government should be championing remote working far more actively. It reduces pressure on transport, is good for the environment and produces a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.

To be fair to the British government though, the U.S. equivalent, Telework Week 2012, is next week and is hardly a pressing topic of discussion around American kitchen tables either. The truth is remote working doesn’t have tons of immediate sex appeal (that’s probably why the Dutch had to use pretty women in pink bathrobes to get their event some attention), despite the Digital Workplace Forum and the Anywhere Working Week sponsors’ being completely correct about its many benefits, which is both a shame and a marketing challenge.

How could the Anglophone countries take a leaf out of the Netherland’s book and find a way to make remote work a hot topic?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Martin Kliehm

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