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.

Telework’s role in climate change

The news about climate change keeps getting worse. So does the news about governments’ actions about combatting it. While the government sits on its collective hands it is time for some individual action. Here’s an automatic role for teleworkers in combatting climate change.

Don’t drive to work

It’s as easy as that. Every mile that you don’t cover by using some form of fossil fuel is a mile unsullied by greenhouse gas (GHG) production. To get an idea of the savings check this chart:

CO2 emissions vs miles per gallon
CO2 Savings from NOT driving.

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Onward to 2019!

After a very tumultuous year I want to wish you a very happy, satisfying and productive next year — and thereafter. Onward to 2019. Here are some things to think about for the new year.

Employers

If you haven’t already, try to expand (or start) formal teleworking in your organization. As the world economy starts to slow down it is time to think about ways you can increase your competitiveness and versatility while also reducing operating costs. Contemporary technology almost transparently enables close coordination among team members and between teams, regardless of the physical location of their members. As more than one manager has told me in the past: “I didn’t get this at first. In fact I resisted it. But my experience as a telemanager has shown me that I spend significantly less time in those tedious administrative tasks and much more time in getting the job done with my co-workers.” That, and the fact that trained teleworkers tend to stick with their employers — and take less sick leave — is what makes those bottom-line-checkers smile.

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Unions for Teleworkers?

Way back in 1974, after we had completed the first successful quantified test of telecommuting, I was stunned by an announcement of the president of the test company. He said that, while the project was a great success from several points of view,  the company would discontinue offering telecommuting to its employees. When I asked why he said: “Our company is non-union. We’re concerned that, if the company allows telecommuting from these satellite offices, the unions will be able to recruit the employees at one office after another.  Before we know it, because of NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) rules, the company will become unionized and we don’t want that.”

A few months later I was part of a panel discussing the possible impacts of telecommuting. One of my fellow panelists was the head of strategy for the AFL/CIO. At one point he turned to me and said: “You know, this telecommuting is a terrible idea.” When I asked him why he thought so re replied: “Well, if a company’s employees are scattered all over the map, how the hell will we ever get them organized?”

We have what turns out to be a standard dilemma: The fear of becoming organized on the one hand vs the fear of not being able to organize on the other. Telecommuting/telework were  in the middle.
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Climate change: thoughts on the options

As I have commented in the past, we seriously need to do something about climate change, each of us. On 6 October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest special report.  The bad news is that the IPCC lowered its bad-things-will-happen threshold from 2°C (in the earlier report) to 1.5°C. By, say, 2030.

That is to say that, if we don’t limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030, then global warming and effects will likely be even worse — and sooner — than was forecast in the earlier IPCC report. By the way, those temperature numbers refer to increases from  the temperatures before the industrial era began. In 2015 we arrived at the 0.87° point. So we need collectively to begin today to diminish or eliminate all sources of global warming, most of them due to human activity, by 2030.

If we don’t eliminate those sources in time, particularly by 2050, a number of unfortunate events will occur. Some of them have already happened at least once. They will also worsen in proportion to the increase in temperature. Those unfortunate events include: major storms, flooding, drought, rising ocean levels, melting glaciers, crop failures, human migration, disease spreading and extinctions, to name a few. All of these have occurred to some extent in the past year or two.

No single option will act to solve this global problem but several options are available that, adopted with sufficient intensity, may keep us below that 1.5°C limit.

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Some not so ancient history of telecommuting

As I leaf through my old (i.e., last century) presentations I thought, why not share them with the readers of this blog? So here’s one of them, circa 1992, in PDF format. It’s about 4.6 megabytes in size. You can download it here.

This was our general presentation to prospective employers of telecommuters. In 39 slides it covers the historic technological and societal forces that are acting to make telework not only desirable but inevitable for many types of jobs at least some of the time. It also tries to allay the fears of managers about losing control of their employees by showing results of actual telecommuting experience in both the public and private sectors.

Since the presentation was general in nature we used it primarily for introducing organizations to the concepts of telework and telecommuting. Detailed presentations came later, after we were able to incorporate the specifics of an organization’s culture and environment into the material.

Although the material in the presentation is from the 1990s the ideas in it are just as applicable now as they were then. Even more so since the technology behind telework has progressed to the point today where interpersonal communication is as good as, and in some cases even better than, face-to-face, regardless of the locations of the participants.

To round out the presentations, here’s one, in Spanish, presented to the Minister  of Labor of Argentina. It’s both history and some thoughts about the future.

Enjoy.

 

 

Telecommuting: what’s in a name?

Development of Policy on the Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff: that’s what we called our research project at the University of Southern California, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), in 1973. That was a good title for winning a grant from the scientists of the US government. It wasn’t a good title for explaining our research to almost everyone else, especially the business and government organizations that we wanted to use for testing the concept.

The focus of the research team was to assess the possibility of substituting information technology for the daily commute to and from work by millions of information/knowledge workers. I decided that a catchy name might seriously help in recruiting participants. So, that October, I produced a portmanteau word: telecommuting.  It was a combination of the words: telecommunications, commuting and computers.

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Climate change and personal responsibility

As to the topic of climate change; those of you who live in the northern hemisphere, have you noticed that it’s warmer lately? Here in Los Angeles we’re into the third day of a heat wave, or as the weather guessers put it, a Heat Advisory. It’s the second time this year. Normally such things don’t happen around here until September or October. But forget about the old normal; it’s the new normal we have to worry about. Heat and floods constitute the new normal. Climate change. And it’s all your fault so don’t complain. Can’t say I didn’t warn you here and here and here for example.

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Testing potential teleworkers

One issue comes up constantly: that of testing potential teleworkers to see if they would be successful teleworkers. Employers, nervous about having employees who aren’t in “the office” part of the time — or never — hope that there might be some way of testing telework candidates that will raise the likelihood of success. Psychological testing is the option most frequently proposed.

My answer is: it depends.

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Telework: strategy for moving to the gig economy

While JALA’s efforts over the years have concentrated on telework with and for employees of larger organizations, millennials are changing the equation. Increasingly, younger employees yearn to join the ranks fo the self employed. Information technology is abetting that desire. The gig economy, often described as piecework for the underemployed, is having a similar transformation. Here Lucy Reed of Gigmine has this to say about making the transition while still being employed.

jubilant gig entrepreneur

Make a strong start to your side business to build success

by Lucy Reed
Side businesses aren’t new, but with the connectivity of the digital age, the opportunities to start your own side gig have exploded. With the allure of flexibility and earning extra income, more people are choosing to jump on these opportunities. If you’re ready to get into the gig economy, follow these tips to start strong and build with success.

Do what Inspires you

If you’re overwhelmed by all the different options, start by thinking about what inspires you. Some people naturally choose to go freelance in a field they already work in, which can be a great option for advancing your career and making the most of your skills. This is also a chance, though, to turn a passion into a profit. Building a business is a labor of love, so it’s important to choose something you really want to spend time on.

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Employees or contractors?

In the past I have usually discussed telework in terms of employees rather than contractors who work for an organization. On 30 April 2018 the California Supreme Court made the following distinction:

[W]e conclude that in determining whether, under the suffer or permit to work definition, a worker is properly considered the type of independent contractor to whom the wage order does not apply, it is appropriate to look to a standard, commonly referred to as the “ABC” test, that is utilized in other jurisdictions in a variety of contexts to distinguish employees from independent contractors. Under this test, a worker is properly considered an independent contractor to whom a wage order does not apply only if the hiring entity establishes: (A) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact; (B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (C) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

The reason this is important has to do with the benefits, beside direct income, that are available to the worker. For most of our work with telecommuting development we focused on the process of converting existing employees into successful telecommuters. In all those cases I argued that the telecommuters should be compensated the same as their non-telecommuting coworkers.

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