All posts by Jack Nilles

Jack Nilles, changed careers from "rocket scientist" to telecommuting/telework guru in the early 1970s. His careers have been in the public and private sectors, starting from his own aquarium supply and repair company (age 12); freelance photographer; officer in the US Air Force; research scientist in the aerospace industry; research director in academia and management consultancy worldwide. His books are available at major online suppliers.

Just the facts, Ma’am

I have tried to keep the content of this blog non-political but the political environment has become too toxic for me to keep silent. In particular there is the growing disdain for the facts on the part of our President and, apparently, most or all of the Republican Party who favor alternative facts. Alternative facts indeed! Facts are facts and repeatedly testable, alternative facts are distortions at best, outright lies at worst.

I have been continually fretting about this state of affairs, wondering how to reverse the situation. Now Dr. David Brin, the renowned astrophysicist, science fiction author and fellow futurist, has come up with a direct approach: the FACT ACT. Let’s not just stand there complaining about alternative facts, let’s do something about it. First some background.
Continue reading Just the facts, Ma’am

Employees or contractors?

In the past I have usually discussed telework in terms of employees rather than contractors who work for an organization. On 30 April 2018 the California Supreme Court made the following distinction:

[W]e conclude that in determining whether, under the suffer or permit to work definition, a worker is properly considered the type of independent contractor to whom the wage order does not apply, it is appropriate to look to a standard, commonly referred to as the “ABC” test, that is utilized in other jurisdictions in a variety of contexts to distinguish employees from independent contractors. Under this test, a worker is properly considered an independent contractor to whom a wage order does not apply only if the hiring entity establishes: (A) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact; (B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (C) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

The reason this is important has to do with the benefits, beside direct income, that are available to the worker. For most of our work with telecommuting development we focused on the process of converting existing employees into successful telecommuters. In all those cases I argued that the telecommuters should be compensated the same as their non-telecommuting coworkers.

Continue reading Employees or contractors?

Location independence 2.0

Telework/telecommuting has always been based on the concept of location independence: the idea that some jobs/tasks are independent of where they are performed. Our mantra has been to move the work to the worker instead of moving the worker to work.

Some history

The telecommuting portion of telework concentrates on local situations; usually urban-oriented, replacing some or all of the daily commute between home and workplace. In fact, this was the brainstorm I had one day around 1970 while stuck in near-zero miles per hour traffic on a Los Angeles freeway. To make it worse an overhead traffic control sign urged: “Maintain Your Speed”.  Inner thoughts: “My job generally involves thinking, computing, writing and otherwise doing solo stuff. Why can’t I just do it at home? Why am I wasting hours sitting here inhaling carbon monoxide and stressing?”

Continue reading Location independence 2.0

Telework and unnatural disasters: Brexit

One of the reasons I recommend telework is its usefulness in allowing work continuity even in the case of natural disasters: earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards  and the like. I haven’t spent much time writing about telework and unnatural disasters. Now here’s one that’s made to order: Brexit. A disaster that the UK and the EU are just now beginning to recognize.

Amid the gory details of the Brexit process, a saga that evolves daily, is that of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The problem is that the EMA is currently domiciled in London; Canary Wharf to be exact. The role of the EMA is comparable to that of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. The EMA approves medicines for millions of Europeans.

But Wait! How can an agency responsible for the medicines of Europeans be located in a soon-to-be non-European country? Answer: Politically speaking it can’t; it must move to the Real Europe.
Continue reading Telework and unnatural disasters: Brexit

The sustainability dilemma: will we make it?

Sustainability apparently means different things to different people. Fundamentally, sustainability refers to the ability of the human race to survive into the indefinite future. The crux of the sustainability dilemma is the tension between what we want to do and what Mother Nature allows us to do while remaining on Earth. I would like to summarize and expand upon an article that appeared recently in Nature Sustainability. The article’s title is “A good life for all within planetary boundaries”. It was produced by a team from the Sustainability Research Institute of the University of Leeds, UK and the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin, Germany.

The fundamental constraint on sustainability derives from the fact that we’re stuck here on Mother Earth, therefore we must take pretty good care of her if we are to be around very long. What Mother provides us is breathable air, potable water, arable soil, sources of energy and a variety of raw materials that we can make into useful products. The fundamental constraint on “the good life” is our ability to realize at least a minimum level of health and other human needs. The researchers for the paper quoted above described this as the ability of humanity to stay within a doughnut; the inner boundary of the doughnut comprises the human needs requirements while the outer boundary comprises the constraints imposed by nature.

Continue reading The sustainability dilemma: will we make it?

Telework and telepolitics in Catalonia

Ordinarily this blog concerns “normal” telework, among other issues. But this time the focus is on telework as it happens to coincide with telepolitics in Spain’s region of Catalonia. In case you haven’t been following the goings-on in Catalonia because of Trumpruses here’s the story.

Background

Catalonia, although an official, semiautonomous region of Spain, has been chafing at the bit for decades if not centuries. Many Catalans want Catalonia to evolve into a separate country. The Spanish government is dead set against such a move. Nevertheless Catalonia, which has its own parliament, voted in a referendum on 1 October 2017 to become independent under its President, Carles Puigdemont. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, declared the referendum unconstitutional, null and void and set about arresting the leaders of the separatists. Rajoy also declared a snap regional election to be held on 22 December 2017 for the purpose of returning Catalonia to the fold.

Continue reading Telework and telepolitics in Catalonia

High time to put on the brakes

Despite all our sage advice the world, at least the United States, seems intent on accelerating our race to the climate cliff. It’s well past time to put on the brakes. For example, energy and climate notes that:

In the 1990s, the transportation sector saw the fastest growth in carbon dioxide emissions of any major sector of the U.S. economy. And the transportation sector is projected to generate nearly half of the 40% rise in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions forecast for 2025.3

Congratulations all you movers. Transportation finally is producing more greenhouse gases than coal-fired power plants. As my mother used to say to me when I was a sprout: Stop moving around so much!

Continue reading High time to put on the brakes

Telework and the Carbon Tax

Our accounting practices may soon change to include the carbon tax. We have spent years encouraging people to look at the benefits of teleworking versus its costs. Our cost-benefit analysis focuses mainly on the standard cost elements such as space rental, technology, training and unspecified “externalities”. But soon many organization will be thinking about another benefit of teleworking, the carbon tax. Continue reading Telework and the Carbon Tax

Thoughts on telework versus transportation

Telework versus transportation: for the past four decades much of my work on telework and its telecommuting subset has been on demonstrating the relative advantages and disadvantages of those two. It all started in the early 1970s when I got fed up with wasting my time sitting in traffic twice, or more, daily. The commute to and from work was a drag.

Then came the proverbial lightbulb! If what I’m doing at work simply requires a phone  (remember, this was in the dark ages of computing) and a desk, why do I have to fight traffic for more than an hour every day to do it? Why not do it from home (Starbucks hadn’t been invented yet either)?

Since then a growing number of people and organizations have come to the same conclusion, fortified by the evidence that telework and telecommuting are good for business. There are now tens of millions of teleworkers worldwide and the number continues to grow.

So now what?

Continue reading Thoughts on telework versus transportation

Can’t afford to live near work? Telecommute!

The numbers are exploding: people can’t afford to live near where they work. Near means within half an hour or so from home to workplace (see my recent blog) . Now, in an article by George Avalos in the San Jose Mercury News, the plight is laid out for the Silicon Valley. Titled Housing woes spur Bay Area residents to ponder exodus from costly region, poll says, Avalos writes that the battle between ever-so-slowly-growing supply and bursting demand for homes in the valley clearly affects prices. “In July, the median price of a single-family home in the nine-county Bay Area was $804,000, up 10.1 percent from a year earlier ” Avalos wrote. Mind boggling.

There are two possible solutions to this dilemma: a) suddenly become immensely rich; b) move to your employer’s facilities full time or; c) move to where you can afford the housing. The second option evokes, mostly negative visions of the company town. The third option requires some serious thought.

Continue reading Can’t afford to live near work? Telecommute!