What got me started investigating telecommuting in the 1970s was snarled traffic. As LA’s population grew so did the traffic jams. We all looked forward to the opening of a new freeway between home and work. It was only later, sometimes as soon as a few months, that we learned, or relearned, Parkinson’s Law of freeways: Traffic grows to clog the roads available. Over a period of three decades it always seemed to take half an hour to forty minutes to get to the office 16 miles (26 km) away, regardless of the number of “improvements” in the freeways. Now, of course, a forty-minute commute is on a good day. That is, it would be if I were still commuting. The snarls keep increasing.
But there’s another snarl problem. Continue reading The Snarl factor
One of the key components of a successful telework program is the set of agreements between employer and teleworker. We have always insisted that such agreements are absolutely necessary even for try-it-to-see-if-we-like-it programs.
Just as if to emphasize this credo, Patti Waldemeir’s article Courts define area between life and work in the 25 January 2007 Financial Times makes it clear [you may need a subscription to the FT to read it]. Telework governance has reached the age of litigiousness.
“When work is no longer a place, what are its boundaries?
In America, this is the kind of existential question that judges and juries simply cannot resist. So now, in the early broadband era, US courts are trying to set some hard and fast guidelines for the work-life divide.”
Therefore, in order to preempt a situation in which you find youself or your teleworking employees in court, consider adopting the following rules for agreement between employer and teleworker, at least for starters:
On January 17, 2007 the Los Angeles Times Business section had an article titled: Telecommuters may go nowhere — careerwise on its front page. The article’s focus was in the third paragraph:
“Telecommuters are less likely to get promoted than peers who head into the office every day, according to a global survey of 1,300 executives released Tuesday [January 16th] by Los Angeles-based executive search firm Korn/Ferry International.”
On the other hand, the article ended with:
“Despite their hesitations, 77% of the executives said they would consider taking a job in which they regularly telecommuted . . . .”
Hmmmm. What’s sauce for the gander . . .
What the survey really shows is widespread ignorance about proper management of teleworkers in general and telecommuters in particular. Continue reading Another misguided survey
In an October article in Network World on the impact on telecommuting of increasing commute distances the following statement was made:
The growing travel times for physical commuting may encourage more businesses to offer telecommuting options if workers consider time traveling to work as wasted. A survey of 1,400 CFOs said offering telecommuting as an option was the second best way to attract top job talent. The best way was offering more money. Continue reading The word gets around
One of the issues we worried about in our first test of telecommuting in 1973-74 was the impact of telecommuting on land use. In particular, we were concerned that the location independence feature of telework might induce people to move away from the cities to rural — and particularly to scenic — areas in such numbers as to destroy the primary reason for their move. That was more thirty years ago.
Continue reading E. M. Forster revisited
As inventors of the Internet we Americans can sometimes grow overly complacent about our positions as world leaders of high tech applications. Recently I received an indication of my backwardness in the form of an email from a colleague and long-time friend in Indonesia. My friend prompted this exchange by sending me a news item about the email-induced outflow of jobs from London to the more rural communities–all in response to London’s burgeoning gridlock. My reply was: “This is pretty funny since I remember a similar article in The Times, although without the email link, about 30 years ago. Oh how time flies — or not. What has email done for Jakarta traffic so far?” Continue reading Déjà vu and progress in Asia
For years I’ve been saying that available levels of information technology were perfectly adequate for enabling many, if not most, forms of telework.The traditional excuse that “we simply don’t have technology that’s powerful enough to allow telework” was, and is, a red herring for all sorts of useful telework cases. Foremost among the excuses was that telework, via videoconferencing, was too expensive, particularly where face-to-face interaction was felt to be necessary. I used to agree that videoconferencing was too expensive and that therefore some few types of tele-interchange were not practical. After all, high quality videoconferencing setups in the 80s and 90s used to start at $20,000 per seat and go up from there.
Well, no more. Continue reading The march toward telepresence
Today I had occasion to address a session of the 11th International Workshop of the International Telework Association on the topic of telework and business continuity (aka disaster preparedness). I used Skype so that I could communicate with the audience in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada while I sat in my office in California.
One of the questions after my talk was about what this subject should now be named since telework and telecommuting were allegedly sooo 20th century. My response was that I coined the terms telework and telecommuting in 1973 and have seen no reason to abandon them Continue reading A rose by any other name. . .
The following are my comments as submitted to the 16th World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto, ONT, Canada, June 18th. It is redundant for those of you who are telework adepts but some things are worth repeating.
I have learned from direct experience that the best place to be during a disaster is . . . somewhere else.
The First Law of Disaster Management is: Be Prepared.
The Second Law of Disaster Management is: Don’t forget the First Law.
There are some common characteristics of most disasters. Continue reading Disasters and business continuity
The fundamental concept of telework is location independence, the idea that one’s work can be independent of one’s physical location. The bad news is that location independence is usually restricted to information workers; those whose work consists mainly of generating, manipulating or transforming information.
The good news is that roughly three-fifths of the population of developed countries are information workers and about 80% of their work is partially or totally location independent. A little quick arithmetic shows that about half of the workforce of developed countries are potential teleworkers. Continue reading Aroundsourcing