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.
Continue reading The telework tide is changing everything else
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.
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.
Continue reading Telework’s evolution: A progress report
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.
Continue reading Telework in a time of disasters
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.
Continue reading Telework, telecommuting, Remote work; Again What’s the difference?
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.
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.
Continue reading the telecommuting hybrid takes shape
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.
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.
Continue reading two transitions are happening globally
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
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!
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