In the January 27, 2016 issue of the Los Angeles Times, the front page headline was: Billions spent, but fewer people are using public transportation in Southern California This reminded me of the growing transit troubles dilemma: despite government spending billions (by now trillions) of dollars on mass transit projects in the United States there’s little to show for it. But first a little history.
Continue reading Transit Troubles — again
“Why do we need training to make telework work well?” is a question we get frequently. Here’s why: Teleworking is not the same as working in the office; it requires establishing communication patterns and modes that are likely to be different from those in the office.
For starters, that face-to-face interaction that is the mainstay of intra-office communication is either absent or flattened in telework situations. Almost the first question a prospective telemanager asks when faced with the prospect is: “How do I know they’re working if I can’t see them?” That is the crux of the problem and the main motivation for training.
Continue reading Training: Why, Who, What, When
The favorite retort by many of us in the midwest or eastern US in the past few weeks has been: “What global warming? I’m surrounded by icicles!” Others of us, such as in the southwest (and much of Russia), have been sweltering in temperatures dozens of degrees above normal. The key to understanding all of this is to remember that weather is not climate. The polar vortex is not all there is, even when it’s errant. For some explanation see this from the Weather Channel.
Yet all this recent weird weather does allow us to crow: “Telecommuters do it at home! They don’t need to go out in all that snow, ice and slush. When disaster strikes we can deal with it (unless the power goes out too).”
Continue reading What global warming?
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
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?
Continue reading Telecommuting and innovation
We’ve been hinting at it for years but now there’s a study that claims that telecommuters are more ethical than their in-office colleagues. I was alerted to the study by an article on the GigaOm website titled: How to make your team more ethical: Let them telecommute. One of the three key findings in the 17 August 2011 report by Ethisphere was:
Sixty-eight percent of responding companies allow their employees to work from home on a regular basis. Of those, 89 percent reported having no ethics violations during the past two years among their work-from-home employees.
Although the overall study was focused on the impact of open offices on ethics, this was an interesting result. Ethisphere surveyed more than 200 companies to arrive at their conclusion. Two primary factors in this ethical superiority of home-based workers were, according to Ethisphere (I’m paraphrasing a little):
- Lower levels of temptation as a consequence of less frequent mischief opportunities away form the office; and
- Greater concern that any straying from the path of righteousness might end in a call to come back to the dreaded office.
That is: “If I do my job and don’t screw up I can keep on working like this, feeling more in control of my life and, wonderfully, avoid those grinding commutes!”
Sounds good to me.
At fairly regular intervals I get questions from the media like: “Whatever happened to the great surge in telecommuting that was predicted back in 19xx (or 20xx)?” The reporter usually hadn’t seen any recent stories about telecommuting and therefore (while imagining the headline) leapt to the conclusion that “telecommuting is dead!”
Telecommuting isn’t dead. It’s alive and well, if stealthy.
As a very recent indicator I was listening to NPR this morning as the reporter in Manhattan was describing the return to work of exurban-dwelling workers after the onslaught of Hurricane Irene. The reporter’s words were to the effect that workers seemed to be arriving by bus or car as usual or “maybe they’re telecommuting” (as an explanation of the lower than usual numbers of arrivals). An indication that disaster planning efforts that included telecommuting might actually be in effect in many companies (see some of my earlier blogs to that effect). But who’s counting?
I have also had conversations over the past few years with employees of large corporations on the topic of telecommuting, both formal and informal (stealth). The general telecommuting implementation scenario goes: Continue reading Stealth Telecommuting