When my research team first started working on telecommuting in the mid-1970s there was no such term as “millennials”. Now it seems that millennials may have a large part in the “rescue” of telecommuting. Let me explain.
A column about telemedicine by Mike Freeman in the Los Angeles Times of 19 March 2016 is headlined “Doctor visits could be like Uber”. The introduction reads:
Though it may sound farfetched, seeing a doctor could move in that direction if telemedicine gains acceptance.
How time flies. On my desk is a report By Ben Park titled: Introduction to Telemedicine: Interactive Television for Delivery of Health Services. The report, from the Alternate Media Center at the School of the Arts, New York University, is dated June 1974. This report appeared just before my research team’s December 1974 report on the Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff. The gist of both reports was that information technology can substitute for many travel purposes, when configured properly. The technology of 2016 is far more powerful than that of 1974. Both telework and telemedicine are happening in ever greater variety today.
Over the years I have often said that telecommuting is like a tide, not a tidal wave, when asked why telecommuting is not an overnight sensation. Imperceptible, perhaps, but sure. Yes, the telecommuting tide is rising steadily, as it has been for years. Witness an opinion column by Robin Rauzi in the 2 March 2016 edition of the Los Angeles Times in which she writes:
Labor statistics show telecommuting on the rise. In 2010 9.5% of employees worked from home at least once a week, and high-speed Internet connectivity has made that easier since then. (Ever wonder why traffic is the worst on Thursdays? That’s the day people are least likely to work from home.)
One of the first barriers presented by a telecommuting-reluctant organization is that it costs too much. But after a careful analysis of telework costs and benefits most organizations change their minds. Here’s why.
In the January 27, 2016 issue of the Los Angeles Times, the front page headline was: Billions spent, but fewer people are using public transportation in Southern California This reminded me of the growing transit troubles dilemma: despite government spending billions (by now trillions) of dollars on mass transit projects in the United States there’s little to show for it. But first a little history.
Continue reading Transit Troubles — again
The recent Paris accords on global warming marked a milestone: the end of the beginning. Finally most nations agreed that global warming is real, is man-made, and that they are responsible for doing something about it.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the pledges made to reduce greenhouse gases go only about half-way to solving the problem. Worse, their pledges are only to try to make things better. That is, fingers crossed behind their respective backs. Still, they did undertake to provide an annual, transparent assessment of their individual progress toward reducing greenhouse gases. This way the slackers can allegedly suffer the disapprobation of the high achievers.
Who needs face-to-face? One of the primary issues in determining the telework ability of a particular job or person is the extent to which face-to-face interaction is needed. Most jobs can be analyzed in terms of the amount of time face-to-face interaction is required versus the time that it is neither required or can be substituted by some form of technology. In the early days of telework the available technology was simply the telephone; therefore face-to-face requirements (meetings, informal discussions, presentations, and so on) had no substitute. So the time available for teleworking was basically the time when the worker could work alone.
As technology has improved it has reached the point where it can substitute effectively for many forms of communication that formerly required face-to-face interaction. Still, there are cases where face-to-face is required or certainly desirable. Let’s look at a few. Continue reading Face-to-face: Who needs it?
One of the side effects of telework’s growing popularity is this issue: are your teleworkers employees or contractors? Our position from the first has been that all teleworkers should be treated like regular employees; given the same rights and privileges, fringe benefits, health care and so on. Part of our rationale for this was that, since teleworkers tended to contribute more to the ultimate “Bottom Line” than their in-office compatriots, they should be treated at least as well as the latter group. Most employers have followed this precept over the past few decades.
According to an article in the 10 September 2015 BBC News, some commute-stressed commuters who live in the European Union now have support, if indirect, from the European Court of Justice. Specifically, the court ruled that:
Time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office [emphasis mine] should be regarded as working time.
The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves.
Requiring them to bear the burden of their employer’s choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.
I recently came across one of the orientation manuals we used in the mid-1980s. Its purpose was to explain telecommuting to prospective telecommuters. It’s interesting to see what, if anything, has changed between telecommuting circa 1985 and today. Here’s an excerpt from The Teleguide for a typical large company. See for yourself how much has changed.
What is Telecommuting?
Telecommuting is the substitution of telecommunications and/or computers for commuting to work. There are two main forms of telecommuting: home telecommuting and satellite center telecommuting. In home telecommuting, a Company employee works at home instead of in the office, possibly with the aid of a personal computer. In satellite center telecommuting, the employee works at an office that is close to his/her home rather than at some more distant location. Telecommunications systems interconnect the home telecommuters, the satellite centers and the “main” offices so that everyone can keep in touch. Continue reading Telecommuting circa 1985