Category Archives: Telework/telecommuting

Comments on any number of topics related to telework, telecommuting, ework, distributed work, the virtual office, or whatever is your favorite name for using information technology for achieving location independence.

Coronavirus defeats organizational stiction

There’s a physics/engineering term called stiction. Stiction is defined as the force required to get a stationary object to move; the force needed to overcome the friction that make the object stick to where it is. In my experience organizations, even individuals, have stiction. It takes some force to get them to leave their comfortable places. For years, even decades, I have battled to get organizations to move out of their familiar positions and adopt telework. The process often takes years of urging and cajolery. The response has been slow to move from interesting but too risky to OK, lets do it. Now an unlikely force has made it happen, almost overnight. Coronavirus has defeated organizational stiction. Worldwide. It’s disaster time once again.

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Telework and evolving urban structure

In my last blog I wrote about possible impacts of the coronavirus and teleworking on cities, particularly downtowns. Specifically, I wrote about patterns of evolution of the urban structure; what will we do with all those downtown office buildings when they are mostly empty? Recently Matthew Haag in The New York Times wrote about some possibilities in his article Manhattan Faces a Reckoning if Working From Home Becomes the Norm. Here are some thoughts about how this may work.

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Coronavirus survival and telework basics

Millions of information workers have been suddenly forced into working from home, teleworking, because of coronavirus-induced lockdowns. I suspect that a large number of these workers — and their supervisors — have never experienced this before. So, in case you have missed my years of writing about telework as a means of disaster survival, here are some of the basics for surviving those lockdowns.

Supervisors

Foremost, it’s time to rethink the traditional methods of management if you haven’t already done so. Your job is to lead, not to be the work cop. When you think: “How do I know they’re working if I can’t see them?” you’re falling for the tried-and-false management myth: observation of process means knowledge of progress. It doesn’t. Here’s how to do it right.

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Covid-19 and the end of offices?

One of the continuing dangers to society in the digital age is that of binary thinking. Things, ideas, events and people are labeled as either true or false, this or that, positive or negative, no in-between. One of the most pervasive such attitudes, other than in politics, has to do with offices. The common assumption is that offices have been the way they are today “forever”, never mind that they are largely industrial revolution artifacts. Millions of workers have “always” been commuting to their offices every day. Now here comes Covid-19 and pervasive lockdowns; suddenly we are facing the prospect of no operational offices at all, at least until Covid-19 has been extinguished or at least suppressed. Then all will be back to “normal,” right?

But that is not the way things will turn out. As I hinted last time we won’t all go back to offices in the Covid-altered future. Here’s why.

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Coronavirus: the stick that urges teleworking

After last month’s blog on disasters, particularly induced by the coronavirus (COVID-19), matters have accelerated. As of this writing there were 127,863 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 4,718 deaths from it worldwide. The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. One of the primary recommendations for surviving the virus — or preventing it from spreading — is to stay at home. One consequence of the widespread publicity about COVID-19 is that major changes are occurring in working conditions.

Foremost among these changes is sudden emphasis on remote working aka teleworking. What decades of imploring employers has failed to do, COVID-19 is making happen. Major employers are having their employees work from home. Universities and school districts are converting to telelearning. Telemedicine is being used to lessen the load on hospital emergency rooms. The years of telling employers that teleworking helps the bottom line, teleworking’s primary carrot, have had some effect. But that effect is nothing compared to the stick provided by COVID-19.

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It’s disaster time again: telework to the rescue

The world never seems to stop having disasters. And it’s time again to start the 2020 disaster season. The disaster most in the public consciousness today is the coronavirus. I remember writing about its predecessor, SARS, as well as other disasters of the time, 16 years ago. That article is on our website under the title War, pestilence, natural disasters. What I said then is even more true today: teleworking is a great tool for coping with disasters.

For example consider China. China, Wuhan in particular, appears to be the origin of the latest pandemic. From a few reported cases in January 2020 the number of people infected with the coronavirus has swollen to more than 70,000 with almost 1800 fatalities as of this writing. Most of the people affected are in China but the disease has spread to many other countries, including the US. It has also had a growing negative effect on global commerce. The Chinese school systems have shut down after Chinese New Year because of the virus.

Or have they?

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Progress in 2019

It’s that time of year again. Time to review progress in 2019. At least as it relates to either telework and/or the environment. As with most things there is good news and bad news.

Telework

For telework/telecommuting it is mostly good news: more and more workers around the world — and their employers/clients — are accepting and adopting the idea of location independence. The number of bloggers about telework is also growing, especially in Spanish-speaking countries. As natural and unnatural disasters occur so, too, does the number of teleworkers if only temporarily.

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Climate change suffers from stiction

Climate change has a recurring problem called stiction. You’re probably familiar with the effect, although the term itself is mostly used in physics or engineering contexts. For example, when you’re trying to move an object that’s been sitting on the table or the floor for a while it may resist the move until suddenly it breaks loose and heads in the direction you’re pushing it. That initial resistance force is called stiction.

Many of us are pushing hard to combat climate change but nothing seems to be happening, as I commented in June. We’re all hoping that suddenly matters will begin to improve but so far they’re not. The global climate has a stiction problem. On 26 November 2019 the United Nations released a report on the Emissions Gap; the difference between the global rate of emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the rate required to keep global warming below 1.5°C?. Not only are we not closing that gap, we’re enlarging it.

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Telecommuting and disasters: a reprise

Telecommuting can be particularly important during and after disasters. Thirty years ago, on 17 October 1989, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake, named the Loma Prieta, occurred at almost 6:00 in the evening near Santa Cruz, California. The shock was felt over much of California but particularly in the San Francisco region. Bridges and freeways crumbled or collapsed. Buildings were damaged, some destroyed. Almost 4,000 people were injured and 63 were killed. The damage was estimated at almost $6 billion.

Coincidentally JALA was running a demonstration test of telecommuting in cooperation with the state government of California. One of our test sites was the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The PUC’s offices in downtown San Francisco were essentially trashed by the earthquake. They remained that way for more than a week. It was impossible to work there until the offices were repaired.

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The future is coming . . . faster

In my blog titled: Climate change: thoughts on the options, almost a year ago, I wrote about the implications of climate change for our future. That blog was based on the 2018 release of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report. Well, according to the latest IPCC report, the future is coming faster than we thought – at least in the sense that our time to make changes is shrinking.

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