Teleworking, forced on many by COVID-19, adopted by some as a preference, is revolutionizing work. Why stop at mere teleworking? asks Spa! (Aug. 10-17). Why not “extreme teleworking”?
A beguiling notion. What can it mean? Something as remote as possible from a traditional workplace, one supposes. The photo accompanying the text suggests as much. A man dressed for outdoors squats at a computer perched on a rock. We get our bearings, and find ourselves at the summit of Mount Fuji. Decidedly untraditional, decidedly extreme.
Mount Fuji, shut down by the coronavirus last summer, reopened for climbing in July. The teleworker is a freelance writer who can, of course, work anywhere his smartphone can connect from. That’s the first question: Will his phone operate on the heights?
He’s not sure. He’ll take the chance. Either way, it’ll be a story. That’s his business – poking a finger in the eye of common sense and writing about it. And if other advantages conducive to productivity emerge – as in fact they do, though offset by some serious disadvantages – so much the better.
So off he goes. There are four trails leading to the summit of Fuji. The Yoshida Trail, the one he chooses, starts off easy. After a time his phone rings. So far, at least, he’s in touch with the world. The caller is a Spa! editor with a question about an unrelated article submitted earlier. Hearing where his writer is, the editor bursts out laughing, somewhat to the writer’s chagrin. The question dealt with, he climbs on. The phone rings again. “Sorry to bother you at a time like this…” The editor, still laughing, has another question. “Wait, hang on,” says the writer. There are other climbers on the trail, and he moves off to one side so as not to be in their way. He notices now for the first time how thin the air is.
Still, he’s doing all right, he’s pleased to observe. Clearly not a seasoned climber, he’s still on his feet, still ascending. The phone rings again – another editor from another publication with another query. He, too, finds the writer’s location funny. “What is it about Fuji,” wonders the writer, “that makes people laugh?” Stifling his exasperation, he climbs on.
It’s steeper now, and darkness thickens. He’s at the 8th station, 3,100 meters above sea level, still two and a half hours from the top. What time is it? 9 p.m. He’ll stop here and proceed at the first light of dawn. A curry meal at the mountain hut, then some writing before bed. One thing about working on the mountain – there are few distractions , nowhere else to go. That focuses his mind. At first. Then, reality imposes itself. Every bone in his body aches, the temperature is all of 7 degrees, his fingers are too numb to type, the thin air is making him a bit nauseous, and he can’t help wondering: Is this really a serious telework option?
It’s not, at any rate, likely to be taken up by large numbers of people. It has no future as a trend. Still, at the very least, he got a story out of it – this one for Spa! – and, as most writers would agree, the story’s the thing. The story’s everything.© Japan Today