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June 24, 2008

Being grounded in the Age of Real-Time Teleportation

ESPOO, Finland – My travel patterns have drastically changed. Just look at the graphic on the right which shows my carbon profile, calculated by Dopplr. Part of the change is due to a new job I took in January (this one). One of the aspects of this job that appealed to me was indeed a potential reduction in, and more control over, my travel.

But there’s more to it.

In January, Nokia undertook, what was to me, one of the largest and most extensive re-organizations in a very long time. Organizational boundaries were redrawn and people shifted in their reporting structure. The result was new integrated multi-disciplinary teams that spanned the globe.

In the new structure, it was natural for folks to want to travel to meet each other. Yet, in a company as large as Nokia, things could get out of hand and very expensive. Not only that, but as a whole, the company’s environmental concerns were becoming ever more important and core in the way Nokia operated and this all coincided with an unprecedented global rise in fuel costs.

So what has Nokia done? It has asked (very forcefully) that all of us cut back on our travel. We all need to think twice three times before booking travel. And there are some new guidelines as to how to determine appropriate travel.

Fortunately, we have tools available that were already put in place to reduce unnecessary travel, such as Halo, internal internet routing of calls to mobiles, a very easy to use teleconferencing system, and other online collaboration tools.

While we will never know the true impact these collaboration tools might have had on decreasing travel, we are all glad we have them. I think they will help us develop habits that will keep travel time down, even if the guidelines loosen up.

Also, for me, reducing travel time was important for my quality of life. And here at Nokia, quality of life is often mentioned when discussing travel reduction. A colleague once mentioned that Gold status in a frequent flyer program was not a badge of honor but a badge of the impact travel had made on one’s lifestyle, especially time away from the family. Being grounded has reminded me of the real things that ground me in this life.

Have you felt pressures to change your travel patterns? Have you struggled to balance work-travel and family life?

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