Harold Macmillan, the snow, the BBC & working from home…

Harold Macmillan was once asked what was most likely ‘to blow governments off course’. 

His answer was ‘Events, dear boy, events’.

Yesterday’s snow was quite an event, especially for a country who expect it so rarely it’s just not prudent to prepare the infrastructure for it.

But it got me thinking about what this ‘event’ could actually change… what standard behaviours it could ‘blow off course’…

There’s two things I thought of for starters.

The first is inspired by something I heard about on the news last night; this event has caused more people than ever before to contribute pictures and video to the BBC.  By 5pm yesterday 24,000 people had sent pictures in to the BBC, and 132 people had sent videos.


If you went out yesterday too, you’d have no doubt been aware of just about everyone carrying a phone camera, compact, digital SLR or video camera too… we are becoming so used to capturing every moment we can.  As Matt Jones said at the PSFK conference, we each carry a ‘remembering machine’ with us wherever we go.

And the ‘hum’ of information around the snow was intense; twitter, facebook updates, text messages, phone calls, emails… it was only when one event suddenly channelled every piece of communications in the same direction that you realise just how connected we are, and how easy it is to share a common experience.

(Before the second thing, allow me to share my favourite photo from yesterday…)


OK, the second thing.  I spent most of yesterday working in my kitchen. 

Now, it doesn’t have a water cooler, but the tap is OK, I’ve got the laptop, a printer, a phone, access to all my work email and drives, instant communication capabilities with colleagues (if they all get webcams, that’s be even better), IT at the other end of a phone or email…

…but by and large, I’ve got everything I need to do the work I need to do, here in my house.

So when you read in the news that UK businesses could have lost up to £1 billion as a result of the snow, you start to wonder if working in line with 20th century expectations on congregating in one office to produce stuff is still something we should be doing?

Now, some people manufacture real things (stereos, books, kitchenware), so need to all gather around the centralised means of production.


But the people and companies that produce things using their brains and their fingertips on a keyboard… well, surely they can do that anywhere?  If everyone in a company like that had a laptop and a USB modem as above, then yesterday shouldn’t have impacted on those businesses at all… the means of production is portable, and moves with the people.

I’m not suggesting that the snow will overnight turn the UK into a nation that works-from-home, but I’m betting there’s a few CEOs around thinking there may be a way they can maintain a community-like relationship between all their employees, but half their ground rent and office space, yet still growing the company…

The ‘workplace’ of the 21st century may be wherever you want it to be.