Telework and network neutrality

There is a major politico-economic tug of war going on these days. It is between those who want the internet to work as it has been for the last few decades and those who want to have the internet provide preferential treatment to certain customers. This may sound like an abstruse issue but it’s not. In particular it  may decrease your ability to telework in the future.

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Telework and organizational culture

What are the relationships between telework and organizational culture? Here is the Wikipedia definition of organizational culture:

the behavior of humans who are part of an organization and the meanings that the people attach to their actions. Culture includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. 

One of the persistent questions I get about the impacts of telework is its effect on organizational culture. The fear is frequently expressed by the management of organizations considering adopting teleworking that somehow the teleworkers will become a sort of alien presence in their organizations. They fear that the teleworkers will be unable to adapt to the organizational culture and therefore will turn out to be a drag rather than an improvement to the organization’s operations and success. Continue reading

What global warming? Part 2

As the “unseasonal” cold snaps and blizzards continue in parts of the US—and as other parts experience unseasonal warmth—the evidence keeps coming in that global warming is real. And largely a result of our burning fossil fuels.

To celebrate this clear trend the European Union, once a leader in the struggle to reduce greenhouse emissions, is having second thoughts. It seems that the fight against global warming is bad for business; Europe may be losing its competitiveness, according to the Financial Times. Continue reading

What global warming?

The favorite retort by many of us in the midwest or eastern US in the past few weeks has been: “What global warming? I’m surrounded by icicles!”  Others of us, such as in the southwest (and much of Russia), have been sweltering in temperatures dozens of degrees above normal. The key to understanding all of this is to remember that weather is not climate. The polar vortex is not all there is, even when it’s errant. For some explanation see this from the Weather Channel.

Yet all this recent weird weather does allow us to crow: “Telecommuters do it at home! They don’t need to go out in all that snow, ice and slush. When disaster strikes we can deal with it (unless the power goes out too).”

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Telework, Obamacare and IT management

There are two types of teleworkers: those who work primarily for a single employer (company, government, NGO, etc.) and those who are largely self employed. For those current or potential teleworkers who are considering a move to the ranks of the self employed the healthcare problem can be a serious barrier to the move. It can be an anxiety-producing experience to think about leaving an employer who provides a good health plan, particularly if you have a family to worry about. Raise your hand if you’re a would-be independent teleworker who’s hesitating because of healthcare concerns.

Relax. Obamacare, the silver bullet, is here — sort of. You now can be in the position where the healthcare issue is no longer an impediment to your entrepreneurial spirit. You can work from, or near, home, regain control of your life, watch your family grow up, reduce your stress levels and maybe even live longer.

If you can get signed up for Obamacare (also known as the Affordable Care Act or ACA).

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Productivity, innovation, creativity and telecommuting

As we have seen in the news lately there seems to be a fad in Silicon Valley based on the idea, particularly for companies that are currently in trouble, that togetherness is an absolute requirement for rescuing the company from a fate worse than death. That is, according to this theory, productivity, innovation and creativity only happen in groups of people constantly engaged in face-to-face communication. So if the company can only get all of its people collocated as much as possible great things will automatically happen.

I have mentioned in previous blogs that I don’t believe this theory, based both on my personal experience and survey evidence we have collected over the years. I think that these companies might better spend their time improving their management capabilities rather than herding all their employees into some mental gymnasium. Let me explain this with my own assumptions. Continue reading

Telework re- re- re- . . . re-invented – or not

Two interesting news items came in today concerning telework and telecommuting. One was a report on CNN by a “British-American entrepreneur, professional skeptic and the author of “The Cult of the Amateur” and “Digital Vertigo” giving five reasons why the traditional office is going out of style. Another Eureka moment.

The second item was in the Jan Jose, CA’s The Mercury News blog Silicon Beat with the headline “HP reportedly calling workers back to the office” forwarding a rumor that Meg Whitman’s HP has caught Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer bug. HP’s reasoning, like Yahoo’s, is that the move to haul in the teleworkers is necessary to “create a more connected workforce and drive greater collaboration and innovation.” I won’t repeat the questionable logic of that statement here since it’s in prior blogs.

The clear conclusion of these two items is that telework will dominate the office of the future except, maybe, in Silicon Valley.

Urban sprawl revisited: the suburbs

Recently the New York Times ran an OpEd piece on the changes in urban sprawl, particularly suburban sprawl. The Times also asked for comments on the work-at-home aspects of sprawl. Here are my slightly expanded comments [not published by the Times because of length or . . . ].

The suburban sprawl (or not) trend is indeed a mixed bag. While some home owners, or prospective homeowners, may be moving to newly vacant homes in the suburbs, others are moving back into the city to occupy former office space converted to residences. Part of this is a result of the growing disconnect between where one works and where one lives. Just a few years ago the flight to the suburbs was driven by escalating land prices in the central cities; home-owning hopefuls went for affordable housing even at the price of long commutes to offices in the central cities. For many those commutes have since become telecommutes. Continue reading

Teleworkable organizations

One of the most fundamental—and most often ignored—considerations in the development of telework programs is the teleworkability of the organization itself. How capable is an organization of making the behavioral changes that might be made necessary by teleworking? Just as not all workers will make good teleworkers, not all organizations can easily adopt teleworking. Here are some criteria for assessing the likelihood that a particular organization will successfully embrace teleworking.

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Urban sprawl revisited

About 22 years ago I wrote a paper* about the impact, if any, of telecommuting on urban sprawl: that steady creep of suburbs outward around large cities. The paper was based on our measurements, over a period of two years, of residence location changes made by telecommuters. The idea was to test whether telecommuting acted to increase urban sprawl by making it easier to live farther from one’s workplace.

The answer was negative: although the median per-telecommuter annual mileage saving was 2046 miles, the household move distances were essentially a wash—some moved a bit farther away, some nearer to work. So our conclusion was that telecommuting doesn’t affect urban sprawl. Case closed.

Now comes an Op Ed piece by Paul Krugman in the 29 July 2013 edition of the New York Times. Titled Stranded by sprawl, the article explores the relation between urban sprawl and joblessness. Krugman concludes that part of the reason for persistent joblessness among lower income families is that their homes are not where the jobs are and the transportation system, such as it is, doesn’t make it easy to get to jobs. The greater the urban sprawl the worse the problem gets.

This brings us to part 2 of the urban sprawl conundrum: use telecommuting to alleviate the impact of urban sprawl! Successfully send the work to the workers instead of failing to get the workers to the workplace.

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