Category Archives: Telework/telecommuting

Comments on any number of topics related to telework, telecommuting, ework, distributed work, the virtual office, or whatever is your favorite name for using information technology for achieving location independence.

IBM retreats to 20th century, drops telecommuters

According to the Wall Street Journal of 18 May 2017 [Note: the referenced article has a paywall], IBM has decided to call in all its telecommuters. The option given to the telecommuters is either to come in to an IBM facility every day or look for a job with some other employer. This was a shock to me since I helped IBM get its telecommuting program started in 1984, way back in the 20th century. So IBM has been supporting (and lauding) telework for 33 years. And now they have decided to stop it, to retreat to the pre-1980s. This does not seem to be a wise move. Why are they doing it?

The answer from IBM sounds a lot like Marissa Mayer’s excuse for calling in the telecommuters of Yahoo! Business is bad and it doesn’t seem to be getting better so it’s time call in all the troops in order to ignite a burst of innovation. Get them together every day so that the ensuing interpersonal communication (or friction), like striking a match, will produce light and the company will turn the corner and prosper. The implication, of course, is that business is bad because of telecommuting. Therefore it’s the telecommuters who are the source of the problem. It’s what my friend, Gil Gordon, calls telescapegoating!

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What global warming? Look around!

According to news reports President Trump thinks that global warming is a Chinese propaganda plot and has no basis in fact (or at least in alternative fact). Therefore, Trump concludes, there is no sense  in providing government funding for research on it. Why squander taxpayers’ money on something that doesn’t exist?

There is, of course, the troubling fact that thousand of scientific papers and scientific conferences worldwide have identified global warming with increasing accuracy. There is the troubling fact that some of the long term effects of global warming seem to be happening prematurely. Effects that weren’t supposed to happen for years seem to be occurring already. More intense weather: droughts; floods; windstorms are occurring more often than historical statistics would predict. Why is this?

Continue reading What global warming? Look around!

Pricing the commute

For years we have had a do-it-yourself telework cost-benefit analysis on our website. That analysis focuses mainly on the direct costs and benefits of telecommuting versus the daily commutes between home and work. Now let’s expand that analysis with some thoughts about the other costs of the commute; pricing the commute.

To be comprehensive, pricing the commute requires some analysis of the other factors beside out-of-pocket expenses: those so-called externalities. These additional factors include: the drag; health hazards; physical dangers and psychological effects. An article by Nathan Brooker in the 25 March 2017 Financial Times FTWeekend edition, titled Commuter pain or gain? gives one such analysis although it focuses on mass transit rather than private cars.

Let’s look at some of these factors, focusing on pricing the commute by private car. Continue reading Pricing the commute

What is the optimal amount of telecommuting?

When we first started research on telecommuting in 1973 our focus was on whether telecommuting was practical in the real world, never mind the optimal amount of telecommuting. I insisted that the research involved testing telecommuting in an actual company, one whose bottom line was purely business oriented. The question of the optimal amount of telecommuting/teleworking didn’t come up because we were concerned with whether it was practical at all.

In those days the typical telecommuter was a person who worked using a computer terminal that was connected by wires to a mainframe computer somewhere. The idea of the person doing this from home was simply not practical; telecommunications cost — the cost of connecting that computer terminal to a distant mainframe via telephone connections all day — was simply too high. So in those mid-1970s days we concentrated on people working in what we called satellite offices: typically suburban offices solely owned by the employing company for use by its employees. Only after the arrival of personal computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s was it practical to think about home based telecommuting.

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Telemedicine: Its Future Beckons

Way back in the distant past, the early 1970s, as I was trying to focus my thoughts on telecommuting, telemedicine kept appearing as one of the options. Assessing the future of telemedicine by testing it was one of my research team’s initial set of possibilities. But the complexities of dealing with the medical establishment — and the fact that we had a very limited research budget — led us to focus on more accessible business operations; the insurance company we used as our first test site.

The basic concept for both telework and telemedicine is the same: Where and how is it possible to use information technology to couple expensive/scarce resources with human needs? In the case of telemedicine the resources — physicians and some health care personnel together with their support equipment and facilities — can be both scarce and expensive. Those in need of the sort of care they provide  must often travel great distances to get from home to the facilities, face fees beyond their capacity, or go without. The prospect is daunting!

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Year end thoughts on the future of telework

Well, it has been an interesting year, in the sense of the old Chinese curse: You shall live in interesting times. Here are some year end thoughts regarding telework’s future.

First, this year has demonstrated that many carefully thought out plans have gone awry. Seriously! Brexit, Trumpism, Syria, China’s economy, Russian autocracy to name a few. The global master plan seems to be chaos. Now, all of the aforesaid are geopolitical in their nature. What do they have to do with telework?

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Circumventing Trump with Telework

Amid all the other forms of uncertainty resulting from the unexpected election of Donald Trump to President of the United States there is the one of the impact of Trump on Telework. And vice-versa. What might/will change as a result? Here are some possibilities.

Immigration

Trump has made numerous claims that he will build a wall to keep out Mexicans and other illegal immigrants, even though the net flow of them has been in the other direction lately. He will spend billions to erect this wall (recently downgraded to fence) and force Mexico to pay for it; an option rejected by the President of Mexico.

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The Telecommuting Oil Crisis: Part 2

Almost two years ago I wrote about the potential effect on telecommuting of reduced oil prices.  The point was that cheap oil might spur more private auto use for commuting, thereby reducing demand for telecommuting — a new telecommuting oil crisis. Let’s see how things have turned out so far.

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Telecommuting in the automated driving age

There has been lots of news recently about automated driving. Teslas on autopilot, driverless (sort of) Ubers, all the main auto manufacturers developing self-driving cars. How is all this driverless driving likely to affect telecommuting? After all, telecommuting was invented as a way to reduce time- and energy-wasting commuting. What if the commuters of the (near) future can sit back and telecommute en route?

I originally started thinking about telecommuting in response to the question: why can’t you [rocket scientists] do something about traffic? The point being that growing traffic congestion, in the 1970s, had become a source of air pollution, reduced productivity, energy dissipation and a whole host of other undesirable things.  My reasoning was: Continue reading Telecommuting in the automated driving age

Laila Padorr Nilles, the Mother of Telecommuting

I am desolated to announce that Laila Padorr Nilles, my partner of more than 59 years, left this world on August 22, 2016. She often was called the “Mother of Telecommuting”, reflecting the years she has encouraged and helped me in my research on telecommuting, telework and their impacts. Laila is the one who encouraged me to leave my job in the aerospace industry and invent a new one at the University of Southern California; a position that allowed me to set up the first formal research into what I called telecommuting. That was in 1972.

Laila also helped me organize JALA Associates, now JALA International. She is the LA in JALA. She participated in JALA’s activities around the world, giving or assisting in presentations about telework in the United States, Europe, South America, Australia and Southeast Asia. She was part of the management group of the European Community Telework Forum in the 1990s. Through this period her sense of humor, perspicuity and broad outlook helped sustain us though many “interesting” periods.

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