Tag Archives: telecommuting history

Telecommuting and innovation

The press, both national and international, has been full lately of stories related to Yahoo’s impending termination of telecommuting for all of its employees. The reason for this termination, according to Yahoo’s spokespeople, is the need for more innovation within Yahoo so that it can gain market share. Furthermore, Yahoo’s position seems to be that innovation can only occur if the employees are always co-located and frequently interact with other employees not in their usual workgroup. It ignores the fact that most contemporary telecommuters do their telecommuting part-time and do spend time with their coworkers in face-to-face situations.

As you may have noticed in my previous two blogs on this topic I am skeptical of Yahoo’s approach. There are two aspects to my skepticism. First, there is the question of how much innovation is really needed in an organization. Second, is the premise valid that employees need to be co-located in order to be innovative?

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Love in line?

This post is not solely about telecommuting. Rather it is on one of the chief motivations for telecommuting. What triggered this was an article by Paulo Cabral on BBC News Magazine about traffic problems in São Paolo. The article focuses on the travails of a young mother who, according to Murphy’s Law of Commuting, lives on one side of the city while her work is on the opposite side. She is often in the position of having to commute two hours each way with her youngest son with her in the car. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s not all bad news. There is love in line. Continue reading Love in line?

SecDef Telecommutes? Shocking!

In the 2 September 2011 Los Angeles Times there’s an article titled: Panetta’s commute raises eyebrows. The gist of the story is that many Washingtonians are shocked, shocked that the Secretary of Defense could even consider boarding a U.S. Air Force jet to fly home to California for a three-day weekend. Almost every weekend. Never mind that Panetta’s ranch in the Carmel Valley is fully equipped with the telecommunications technology to allow him to keep in constant touch with the Pentagon 24-7.

What memories this situation arouses in me. Flash back to the mid-1960s when I was still a “rocket scientist” engaged in some highly classified research for the Air Force. In Los Angeles. One afternoon I got a call to brief the Undersecretary of the Air Force at 9:30 the next morning. In the Pentagon. One does not refuse such a request so I dutifully boarded the “redeye” to Washington, arriving the next morning at about 6:30 AM. Upon arriving at the Pentagon I was told that the briefing had been postponed to 2:00 PM. At 1:00 P:M I was told the briefing was cancelled. So I climbed on the evening plane back to LA, never having briefed the Undersecretary. I thought: there must be an easier way.

A short time later I was told that there was a secure color TV link to the Pentagon in an office about 50 meters from my office in LA. Had I been a General I could have used that link instead of making that fruitless and expensive round trip to the Pentagon. To borrow a phrase from Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town: “What a waste of money and time!”

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