The telework tide is changing everything else

Thanks to the pandemic, acceptance of telework has become a tide that is changing many other things. It has washed out the status quo antes in many industries that once were highly centralized. A full return to that status quo, highly prized by many senior executives, is becoming less likely every day.

And then there are the side effects, some of which I have touched on in earlier posts. Some may be revising the shape of cities and transportation practices. Hopefully, one side effect is a decrease in global warming. Here are some thoughts.

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Steps to combatting global warming: Methane

Although much of the focus in talks about global warming is on carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) may be even more important in the near term. The reason methane is important is because it is much more effective than CO2 at increasing warming. Even though it doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere. So while atmospheric CO2 may be around for hundreds of years, methane is a powerful factor now. Here are some facts and suggested steps to combating global warming by reducing methane production.

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Telework’s evolution: A progress report

Earlier this year I wrote about defining telework and its synonyms. Much has happened regarding telework and its evolution over the past two years. Here’s a progress report.

Nomenclature

As I wrote in January 2022, telework is now named differently quite often. The most popular terms in 2022 appear to be remote work and hybrid work. Both terms are often perceived erroneously, particularly that the work arrangement must be full-time. That is, the hapless worker must always be confined to working from home or to a rigid schedule, designed by the Chief Executive Officer, of a fixed ratio of days-per-week in the office, the rest of the time at home.

This misunderstanding is not news to me. It has been a problem over the past five decades, people miss the point that telework is a flexible tool; to be used when and where it is appropriate. It is by no means all or nothing.

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Telework in a time of disasters

For years I have been urging organizations to adopt telework if only as a quick response in times of disaster. Now we are in time of two major disasters: one a pandemic, the other an unwarranted invasion. The first disaster provoked a massive increase in teleworking globally. The second disaster may provoke a new form of teleworking: a teleinsurgency.

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Telework, telecommuting, Remote work; Again What’s the difference?

Judging from the comments I get, there is still a fair amount of confusion as to what, exactly, are the definitions of teleworking, telecommuting and remote working? My answers go into some detail but, first, here are my general definitions:

  • Teleworking: ANY form of substitution of information technologies (such as telecommunications and/or computers) for normal work-related travel; moving the work to the workers instead of moving the workers to work.
  • Telecommuting: Periodic work out of the principal office, one or more days per week, either at home, a client’s site, or in a telework center; the partial or total substitution of information technologies for the commute to work. The emphasis here is on reduction or elimination of the daily commute to and from the workplace. Telecommuting is a form of teleworking. Telemedicine is another form of telework except the emphasis is on the type of work performed rather than the trip savings.
  • Remote working: Another popular name for teleworking. I personally dislike the term because of the the possible inference that the workers are somehow disengaged from their work rather than simply working at a distance from the principal workplace.
  • Hybrid working: The split between teleworking and traditional office working in which X days per week, on average, are spent teleworking and the rest in the traditional office. Our previous research shows that X tends to hover between 2 and 3. This form has implications on the design of the formerly traditional office. But that’s the subject of a future blog post.

Those are the quick definitions. Now here are some details.

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the telecommuting hybrid takes shape

Thanks to Covid, widespread telecommuting emerged in 2020; its more mature form, the telecommuting hybrid, has started to take shape. In early 2020 the situation was that basically all office workers were forced to work from home essentially full time. Offices, with their threat of Covid contamination, were avoided by all but the most stalwart office hermits.

Dilemmas

There are at least two main problems with this situation. First, many telecommuters did not have home environments suitable for full-time telecommuting. Second, most people enjoy and look forward to some face-to-face interaction with their colleagues; video conferencing does not quite satisfy that desire. As a result the newly hatched telecommuters suffered various forms of stress and anomie.

At the other end of the working relationship, managers found that the old, traditional ways of running things didn’t work nearly as well when their employees were geographically dispersed. Since many managers, upon becoming managers, are given little training on management techniques, their natural response has been to use the management-by-walking-around method. Clearly, this doesn’t work with telecommuting and its management-by-results philosophy.

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two transitions are happening globally

It’s that time of year when it’s useful to look back on what has been accomplished and consider what may lie ahead. In particular, it’s time to discuss the progress of two important transitions related to climate change: COP26 and teleworking.

COP26

The 26th annual United Nations Conference of the Parties, recently held in Glasgow, Scotland, was a potpourri of hopes realized and crushed. For many attendees, the hope that finally, finally some concrete action on climate change would happen turned into more frustration. There was, at least, a general agreement among the attending countries to eliminate methane production by the late 2020s, although Indonesia had second thoughts about its agreement.

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The climate countdown continues

On 31 October 2021 COP26 begins in Glasgow. Hopefully, COP26 will act as an inflection point in the efforts to decrease global warming. With its success the climate countdown will continue. Hopefully, more nations will sign on and make quantitative commitments to end their emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Otherwise, greenhouse gases will continue to flow, the air will become warmer, destructive weather events will become more frequent and intense and humanity will increase fragmenting. All because Mother Nature will adapt to our mischief whether we like it or not. The earth will survive whether or not we do.

Here are some thoughts about the situation.

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Telework and Terrorism revisited

Almost twenty years ago I wrote a page on the JALA website about the impacts of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Yet terrorism is just one of many sources of disaster that telework could have subdued.

Twenty years later my message is the same as it was then. The difference is that not much happened after that first message while plenty happened after the recent — and continuing — pandemic disaster. It clearly took something greater than the mere destruction of the twin towers in order to get the world’s attention. Telework is clearly a solution, at least in part, to many types of disaster.

We now have much greater set of impending disasters, that of climate change, that threaten to uproot many of our fondest customs and practices, even our lives. Telework is likely to be an element of the means for averting that threat.

Better late than never?

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The price of procrastination

Months ago I wrote a piece about the seemingly agonizing pace at which we’re combatting climate change. It still seems agonizing. Here is an explanation of why and how fast we need to change, as well as some positive steps we call all take to reduce global warming.

My main message is: procrastination hurts. The more we delay taking active measures against global warming, the more it will cost us when we finally start. There are two reasons for this. First, as long as we do nothing, or not enough, the level of CO2 will keep increasing and the atmosphere will continue warming. Second, since we’re working against a climate change deadline, the rate at which we need to stop emitting CO2 must increase. The recent heatwaves in the Western US and Northern Europe, as well as the recent hurricane Ida, are clear examples of why these estimates may be too conservative.

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