Two interesting news items came in today concerning telework and telecommuting. One was a report on CNN by a “British-American entrepreneur, professional skeptic and the author of “The Cult of the Amateur” and “Digital Vertigo” giving five reasons why the traditional office is going out of style. Another Eureka moment.
The second item was in the Jan Jose, CA’s The Mercury News blog Silicon Beat with the headline “HP reportedly calling workers back to the office” forwarding a rumor that Meg Whitman’s HP has caught Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer bug. HP’s reasoning, like Yahoo’s, is that the move to haul in the teleworkers is necessary to “create a more connected workforce and drive greater collaboration and innovation.” I won’t repeat the questionable logic of that statement here since it’s in prior blogs.
The clear conclusion of these two items is that telework will dominate the office of the future except, maybe, in Silicon Valley.
Recently the New York Times ran an OpEd piece on the changes in urban sprawl, particularly suburban sprawl. The Times also asked for comments on the work-at-home aspects of sprawl. Here are my slightly expanded comments [not published by the Times because of length or . . . ].
The suburban sprawl (or not) trend is indeed a mixed bag. While some home owners, or prospective homeowners, may be moving to newly vacant homes in the suburbs, others are moving back into the city to occupy former office space converted to residences. Part of this is a result of the growing disconnect between where one works and where one lives. Just a few years ago the flight to the suburbs was driven by escalating land prices in the central cities; home-owning hopefuls went for affordable housing even at the price of long commutes to offices in the central cities. For many those commutes have since become telecommutes. Continue reading Urban sprawl revisited: the suburbs→
One of the most fundamental—and most often ignored—considerations in the development of telework programs is the teleworkability of the organization itself. How capable is an organization of making the behavioral changes that might be made necessary by teleworking? Just as not all workers will make good teleworkers, not all organizations can easily adopt teleworking. Here are some criteria for assessing the likelihood that a particular organization will successfully embrace teleworking.
In case you haven’t heard it yet, Marissa Mayer the new leader of Yahoo! has decided to terminate telecommuting for all Yahoo! employees as of June. Not just some telecommuting, all telecommuting. Her reasoning appears to be:
Yahoo! needs to be more competitive;
competitive organizations always have all their employees in the office every day so that they can interact with each other;
therefore Yahoo! needs to have all of its employees in the office every day so that they can interact with each other and be more competitive!
The only problem with that syllogism is that statement 2, although generally applicable around the time of Abraham Lincoln, is wrong for most information-based organizations in the 21st century. Here’s why.
One of the fears often voiced by prospective telemanagers is the possibility that a telecommuter will, inadvertently or otherwise, leak critical confidential company information to non-company listeners. While research over the years has shown that disgruntled employees working inside the office are the most likely perpetrators of such mischief, the fears still exist. Data loss is always a concern of management, particularly IT managers. A concern that grows when the keeper of the data is somewhere else than the main office.
But sometimes the tables are turned, as in the case of the rescue of Toy Story 2.
As I mentioned in my last post, the general media panic about total gridlock in LA during Carmageddon could possibly be a replay of LA during the 1984 Olympic games.
As it turned out, my forecast was right on. Here’s a shot of the I-405 freeway at Sunset Boulevard, near the southern end of the Sepulveda pass, at 2:00 PM the afternoon after the freeway closure.
The only car shown on the freeway is a parked official vehicle. Not only that, all the streets in the immediate area were traveled by only the occasional car. Not only that, the rest of Los Angeles reportedly was also congestion-free. I’d love to say that this wonderful highway emptiness was a result of a sudden interest in telecommuting but this photo was taken on a Saturday, not the usual workday. No, the sudden hiatus mainly was the result of a mass decision to stay home.
The bridge reconstruction that triggered all of this was completed hours ahead of time, on the following Sunday morning. Here’s the freeway, from the same vantage point, on Sunday afternoon, same time.
Still pretty nice, but the freeway had only been open for less than 3 hours when this was taken. The massteria still ruled. But would it last?
As is generally known, the Los Angeles region depends for its economic survival on its cars and freeways. Tomorrow a key section of one of the world’s most traveled freeways, the 405, will shut down for at least 53 hours. This action is to allow demolition of a bridge in Sepulveda Pass as part of the project (costing an estimated $1 billion) to widen the 405. The pass is the principal connection through the Santa Monica mountains between the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles. The shut-down allegedly is scheduled for the weekend in order to minimize the effect on business-related traffic, i.e., the daily commutes to and from work. Normally, if such a term can be applied to Los Angeles, the to-be-closed section of the 405 handles 500,000 cars per day during the weekends. So something in the order of 1 million cars are about to be blocked from their wonted activities.
Naturally, the local news media have been having a field week over the prospects, calling the impending automotive doom Carmageddon. Also naturally, in accordance with the law of perversity of the human psyche, people who live on one side of the city tend to work on the other side. This is the primary reason for the so-called rush hour; well, it once was called the rush hour, now it tends to be four hours, twice daily. On weekends people, freed from the need to commute to work, still get on the freeways to go shopping or whatever. The word lemmings comes to mind. Why, the imminent disaster might be comparable to that of the 1984 Olympics when similar scenarios were bruited about.
But wait! As I recall, the actual traffic in LA during the 1984 Olympics was much lighter than normal; almost free-flow. What happened was that:
Workers shifted work hours or telecommuted during the Olympics;
Families moved their shopping and entertainment travel to work around the Olympics;
Truck travel was confined to non-Olympic hours.
In short, millions of people quickly adapted to the need not to travel. Could this happen again?