E. M. Forster revisited

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

Déjà vu and progress in Asia

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

The march toward telepresence

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

A rose by any other name. . .

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. . .

Hello again!

One of the side effects of the recent heat wave(s) was the silent crashing sound of our web site and accompanying blogs. The blogs up to this point appear to have vanished as well.

So, if you found some saveable profundities in the previous blogs I hope you saved them. Otherwise you may have to wait a long time to see them again unless I discover a recovery process soon.

Best wishes,

Jack Nilles

Later -> The problem has been fixed, we hope, and the lists are back to normal. If you still find one of the blogs missing, please let us know.

Disasters and business continuity

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

Aroundsourcing

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

More about less

In case you believe that those who are proclaiming the end of oil are a bunch of Chicken Littles, consider the following.

  • Last week Shell Oil announced that it could not find enough new reserves to keep up with the rate at which it was pumping out existing fields. That is, the amount of oil in the ground is declining — at least as far as Shell can exploit it.
  • According to the 30 April 2006 edition of Energy Alert “Even though Exxon is growing production strongly, it has been earning less from the incremental barrel. In other words, production is increasing for Exxon but it’s costing more per barrel to produce, for a number of reasons.
  • Demand for oil by India and China continues to rise, bumping up against the also escalating needs of the U.S.

These are just three of the indicators buried in the news that support the idea that gas prices may fluctuate day to day, largely for political reasons, but the long term and inevitable trend is up.

Fuelishness

At the risk of sounding unpatriotic or worse, I have to say that my reaction to escalating gas prices is: good! We have been underpaying for our energy for decades. The result is that, like all things that are free, or at least cheap, we are profligate spenders thereof. Now that the price of gas has begun to get our attention we may, just may, begin to think about ways to reduce our pain.

Such as by teleworking more, planning car trips more carefully, dumping the gas guzzler for a vehicle that is more fuel efficient, encouraging R&D on alternative fuels and propulsion systems.

But is that what’s happening? Not in Congress. Most of the activity by both parties seems to be directed toward bringing gas prices down again. Continue reading Fuelishness

Teleworker profectiveness

For years I have tried to steer clients away from the use of productivity as a means of measuring the results of what teleworkers do. The reason for this is simply that productivity is a word associated with things, widgets, stove bolts, automobiles coming off the assembly line, and other manufactured objects. The broader, macroeconomic view is that productivity is somehow related to efficiency and value added. If a product sells for more than the costs of capital, materials, labor, and facilities used to produce it, then positive productivity must be at work.

The problem is that it is pretty hard to evaluate that sort of productivity for many types of information work simply because it is hard to identify the product to be measured. Continue reading Teleworker profectiveness

. . . about telework, energy and the environment