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?
Continue reading Telework and Terrorism revisited
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.
Continue reading The price of procrastination
In the old days, pre-Covid, I used to write about telework as a tide coming slowly in. An inch at a time, unlike Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave. But with the advent of Covid the telework tide turned into a tsunami, seemingly sweeping all else before it. Now that the tsunami is slowly receding it’s time to review its impacts and their future.
The Covid pandemic suddenly forced many organizations to become telecommuter-dominant early in 2020. Consequently, the majority of the employees at all levels of the organizations were forced, almost overnight, to work at home, mostly with no prior training or other preparation. I was conflicted at the time, elated that a massive, global demonstration of teleworking had been started, but worried that the lack of training and pre-planning would produce many organizational disasters.
Fortunately, most of those instant, tsunami-induced conversions to telecommuting worked well after a few days or weeks of frantic adjustment. The organizations — and employees — adjusted. Productivity rose. Many operating costs were reduced or eliminated. The pandemic was deflected if not avoided. Business operations normalized, at least when viewed from a distance. The “bottom line” improved rather than crashed.
Continue reading Slowly, slowly, then all of a sudden!
Recently President Joe Biden chaired a virtual international conference on climate change that included many of the world’s leaders. The conference gained a number of new or updated promises by nations, including major emitters like China, Europe and the US, to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2030. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that these ventures are still mostly promises. Actual major reductions in GHGs have yet to be seen. The Covid-induced global slowdowns in transportation and other forms of energy consumption, big as they were, were still largely masked by emissions elsewhere. For example, China added several coal-burning power plants to its active inventory in 2020. The result is that growth in GHG emissions today is still largely unchecked. Furthermore, for each year the promises are unfulfilled the required rate of decrease of GHGs in following years goes up if we are to meet the promised goals.
Continue reading Climate change: Promises, promises, promises
Now that many of us have had at least a year of experience with teleworking (or many of its synonyms) it is time to take stock of the possibilities for the near future. Who will the future teleworkers be, what will they be doing, when will they be teleworking and where will they be doing it? The successes, and tribulations, of the past year give us some clues to each of those possibilities.
Fundamentally, teleworkers are people whose jobs are at least partially location-independent. Currently that’s roughly half to three-fifths of the workforce in developed countries; information workers. Some information workers still are restricted to live near and work in a primary location but technology is constantly eroding that requirement. Those restrictions are imposed by such things as access to fixed or very expensive equipment or facilities, security considerations or group interaction requirements. Currently that leaves more than 40% of the workforce as potential active teleworkers. As technology improves, the proportion of telework-eligible workers grows.
Continue reading Telework 2021: Who, what, when and where
For those of you who weren’t around at the time I submit that the early 19th century had much to admire. Particularly the fact that most people lived and worked at home then. Leaving aside such matters as plagues, wars, racism, unequal rights and other forms of injustice we have an opportunity, 200 years later, to emulate those days. Covid-19 has forced many of us to try it, willing or not. Somewhere between 25% and 45%, of employed people (depending on the data source) in advanced countries are currently full-time, at-home teleworkers.
Yet it still seems that many people are having problems getting adjusted to their new situation. In a previous blog I discussed the physical aspects of setting up the home office. Now it’s time to think about the psychological rearrangements.
Continue reading Time to move ahead . . . to the 19th century
In December 2020 I wrote a blog about redesigning city centers. This time around I consider redesigning the rest of the cityscape. One of my main themes for the past almost five decades was that telework would allow us to work and live in a neighborhood while still being connected to the rest of the world. The simultaneous advantages of small town and big city living. Most things available without getting in a car.
That concept was in the core of our original telecommuting project in 1973. Workers were allowed to work in satellite offices located in their residential neighborhoods, dropping the commute in favor of telecommuting. Working near home instead of in the big downtown headquarters of their employer. The Los Angeles long range plan then was to have 18 regional centers as hubs for local activities. Our idea was to set up projects in those regional centers. Living at human-scale within a booming metropolis. Fast forward 48 years and an article by Peter Yeung appears on the BBC website with the same idea: the 15-minute city.
What has changed since 1973?
Continue reading Redesigning the rest of the city: Neighborhoods
In May 2020 I wrote a blog about the potential impacts of the coronavirus and telework on urban downtowns. At that time the idea was tentative that telework might force major redesign of city centers. Now comes another article from Matthew Haag of The New York Times about city center conditions to date. Titled “Midtown is Reeling. Should Its Offices Become Apartments?” Haag essentially verifies my conjectures. City centers need a redesign, even in the past-covid era.
Here are some of the events that have occurred in Manhattan since May.
Continue reading Redesigning CITY CENTERs
Now that matters have settled down a bit from the first panic days of the Covid-19 onslaught it is time to think about getting back to some sort of normal. Specifically, how do we get from total lockdown, everybody working at home, to a new normal version of teleworking? Here are some fundamentals of the decision process.
Continue reading Moving from panic to new-normal teleworking
Now that the Covid-induced panicky rush to working from home has died down somewhat, more organizations are thinking about naming a Chief TeleWork Officer, or Chief Remote Work Officer. The reason? Someone needs to organize and monitor the whole telework process to make it more coherent, secure and effective for the entire organization. Most large organizations have a CEO, a CFO, a CTO and a CIO to cover Executive, Financial, Technology and Information/marketing issues, respectively. Why not a CTWO?
Here are some of the areas where the CTWO should have responsibilities and authority.
Continue reading The Rise of the Chief Telework Officer?
- Telework rules and regulations.
- Facilities management
- Technology acquisition and development
- Personnel training and evaluation