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Place Independent Work

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PLACE INDEPENDENT WORK – A PROJECT FROM DYRØYSEMINARSENTERET KF

The project “Place Independent Work” is a national project run by Dyrøyseminarsenteret KF, Dyrøy municipality. As individuals, we are mobile as never before. Solutions for digital communication allow us to get in touch with the world from where we are – independent of our geographic location. The possibilities are better than ever before, to realize the dream of staying where ever we want, bringing our job with us.

The project focuses precisely on these opportunities. We work with models for moving without necessarily changing job, and promote the place independent or remote way of working and learning and even experience culture. Networking, publishing and testing models for working and studying away from office, school or university is an important part of our project.

Place independent work – what is important for employees and employers? (Step 1, 2009 – 2010)

Dyrøyseminarsenteret KF startet a pilot project in autumn 2009. A vision was born: Can job ads in the future focus on getting the right person with the right skills for the position, no matter from where the job is been done geographically?

«Vacancies for qualified applicants with good communication and social skills. Do you have access to high-speed broadband and a digital studio; you can work from anywhere you want. Nice colleagues across the whole country …»

Some companies work according to this vision, even more could do it. Remote work is one possibility to increase efficiency in companies, especially in knowledge based industries. But what are the conditions for succeeding with this way of work? During the pilot project, we asked people from three focus groups about their thoughts, needs and experiences with place independent work: Employees, employers and municipalities who hosted the «place independent» workers. The results made clear that:

  • A model is needed to help employees to move to another place without changing job. Such a model would help to facilitate the dialogue between employee and employer, and to remove some of the concerns for both parts. These models should be developed by an expert group with remote work experience.
  • Employers should have a closer dialogue with the municipality where the remote workers want to live (the host community). Working at distance creates some needs such as an academic and social environment. Offices, co-working spaces and business parks are concepts which satisfy this kind of needs. By now, there are only a few work spaces like that in Norway.
  • We have learned that good information practices and meeting points with the staff (social and professional gatherings) are important for comfort and efficiency.
  • The most important contribution of the municipalities? Our survey gave a clear answer: High speed broadband and good public services such as a good school, kinder garden and health care.

The term “Place Independent” is expanding (Step 2, 2011)

Some important experiences for place independent work were documented in step 1. The next question was if this way of thinking could be transferred to other fields such as business, education and culture. At that time, we wanted to show the possibilities and benefits of the digital highway. Dyrøy is one of the communities in Northern Norway who early invested in fiber optic cable. Every cabin, every house, every company and municipal administration in Dyrøy has access. We wanted to show the potential use of broadband and technology both in school and at work, but also in the private sphere. One example is the webcasting of the world premiere of Brøstadbotn Baroque Band. Another example is teaching a foreign language in primary schools by video. Because of size, the Brøstadbotn Primary School would not have been able to hire an own Spanish teacher, so the solution was learning by video. Over the past years, several digital studios have been established in Dyrøy, both at the library, office hotel, school and nursing home. Simultaneous two-way video and audio transmission has become common in Dyrøy, and it is used by employees, students, privates and in health care institutions.

Place independent work and studies in practice. STEP 3, 2012 – 2014

In 2012, we used the results of the preliminary studies mainly in two major initiatives: The office hotel/co-working space in Brøstadbotn and the hub for place independent work, both with its employees at Brøstadbotn and as a virtual place at www.stedsuavhengig.no (in Norwegian).

At the office hotel in Brøstadbotn, students, workers and start-up entrepreneurs can rent an office place at very flexible terms. Even if we don’t use the term co-working, there are a lot of similarities between a co-working space and the office hotel. The most important difference is that the aspect of rural development is very important in our case, and the municipality is strongly involved in this project. We hope that some years with running the office hotel will give us valuable information for both employees and employers, local authorities who want to facilitate remote work and co-working as a strategy for community development.

The National Hub for Place Independent Work (Kompetansesenter for stedsuavhengig arbeid) is a national resource centre where you are – right now – at the virtual view. We have gathered important information for employer, employee and others. Here you will find information and links to important research topics. From this webpage people can also book a desk at one of the co-working spaces and office hotels in Norway, Europe and across the world. It is also possible to visit the National Hub for Place Independent Work at Brøstadbotn. We organize study trips to Dyrøy and arrange meetings with key persons the group would like to meet. Our forum on www.forum.stedsuavhengig.no is the place to discuss remote work, technical solutions, share own experiences and ask questions about this topic. By now, the forum is in Norwegian, but everybody is welcome to start threads in English, too. Our Facebook page gives you an update on what happens at the office hotel in Brøstadbotn, here we also share information about place independent work.

Research on place independent work

The term “stedsuavhengig” (place independent) is quite new in this context. Other terms to describe that way of working are telework, telecommuting, remote work, eWork or work from distance, often describing the use of telecommunication and work done on distance. The term place independent gives us a description of a way to work which means freedom to choose domicile and combine work and family for those practising it. There is done some research in the 80th and 90th on work from distance by using the advantages of telecommunication. Quite little research is done around the turn of the millennium, while newer research is focusing on new ways of work, among that co-working, place independent work, leading by distance and remote work as a method for development in rural areas and life quality. On our webpage you will find a selection of definitions, reports, research papers and own publications.

The Centre of Competence on Rural Development (KDU, www.distriktssenteret.no/english), has initialized a follow-up study on stedsuavhengig. A PhD student is working on a study about leading employees at distance, and a graduate student at the University in Tromsø, studying regional planning, is writing a thesis on our project.  The project is identified and added to the knowledge base of the KDU (N).

Dyrøyseminarsenteret KF, Tverrveien 1, 9311 Brøstadbotn Innlogging