Productivity on the go - literally

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For drivers around the world, the daily commute to and from work in peak-hour traffic, is a miserable waste of time. But rapid advances in self-driving cars could one day allow commuters to reclaim the dead hours and put them to more productive use.

Although it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, the likes of Ford and Google claim that autonomous vehicles for the commercial market could be available within six to seven years. Regus, a company that specialises in providing a 'flexible workspace', has developed a concept car-cum-office that allows people to work while they're in transit.

The autonomous concept car - called the XchangE - allows the front seats to swivel backwards to create a mobile work and meeting space for four people. Users are able to connect to the office while they're on the road, perhaps checking their e-mail or doing a presentation rather than leaning on the hooter in a traffic jam.

The concept car was designed in partnership with Rinspeed and displayed at the Geneva Motor Show, in March. Because it shuns the traditional design of front and back seats facing forwards, the vehicle provides a sociable, comfortable mobile space where four people can meet or simply carry on with their work.

Like many concept cars, this vehicle may not ever go into production, but it is a tantalising taste of how ubiquitous connectivity is giving people even more freedom to choose their working time and space.

'Third places'

For many executives, the moments they steal for phone calls and e-mail in business class lounges rank among their most productive. In future, a journey to the airport or the morning drive to work could be an opportunity to get real work done.

Regus VP for Africa, Joanne Bushell, says the concept car fits in with the company's global strategy to position itself as a provider of 'third place' working arrangements that allow employees to be productive while they're away from their desks. These 'third places', a concept Regus has rolled out in other parts of the world, but not yet South Africa, are locations where mobile workers can moor to do some work - libraries and petrol stations, for example.

South African companies, and their peers elsewhere in the world, are increasingly looking to flexible working practices to reduce costs and improve productivity and satisfaction in the workplace, she adds. According to Regus research, almost half of business executives and owners in South Africa already work away from their main office for half the week.

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