One of the issues we worried about in our first test of telecommuting in 1973-74 was the impact of telecommuting on land use. In particular, we were concerned that the location independence feature of telework might induce people to move away from the cities to rural — and particularly to scenic — areas in such numbers as to destroy the primary reason for their move. That was more thirty years ago.
As inventors of the Internet we Americans can sometimes grow overly complacent about our positions as world leaders of high tech applications. Recently I received an indication of my backwardness in the form of an email from a colleague and long-time friend in Indonesia. My friend prompted this exchange by sending me a news item about the email-induced outflow of jobs from London to the more rural communities–all in response to London’s burgeoning gridlock. My reply was: “This is pretty funny since I remember a similar article in The Times, although without the email link, about 30 years ago. Oh how time flies — or not. What has email done for Jakarta traffic so far?” Continue reading Déjà vu and progress in Asia
For years I’ve been saying that available levels of information technology were perfectly adequate for enabling many, if not most, forms of telework.The traditional excuse that “we simply don’t have technology that’s powerful enough to allow telework” was, and is, a red herring for all sorts of useful telework cases. Foremost among the excuses was that telework, via videoconferencing, was too expensive, particularly where face-to-face interaction was felt to be necessary. I used to agree that videoconferencing was too expensive and that therefore some few types of tele-interchange were not practical. After all, high quality videoconferencing setups in the 80s and 90s used to start at $20,000 per seat and go up from there.
Well, no more. Continue reading The march toward telepresence
Today I had occasion to address a session of the 11th International Workshop of the International Telework Association on the topic of telework and business continuity (aka disaster preparedness). I used Skype so that I could communicate with the audience in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada while I sat in my office in California.
One of the questions after my talk was about what this subject should now be named since telework and telecommuting were allegedly sooo 20th century. My response was that I coined the terms telework and telecommuting in 1973 and have seen no reason to abandon them Continue reading A rose by any other name. . .
The following are my comments as submitted to the 16th World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto, ONT, Canada, June 18th. It is redundant for those of you who are telework adepts but some things are worth repeating.
- I have learned from direct experience that the best place to be during a disaster is . . . somewhere else.
The First Law of Disaster Management is: Be Prepared.
The Second Law of Disaster Management is: Don’t forget the First Law.
There are some common characteristics of most disasters. Continue reading Disasters and business continuity
The fundamental concept of telework is location independence, the idea that one’s work can be independent of one’s physical location. The bad news is that location independence is usually restricted to information workers; those whose work consists mainly of generating, manipulating or transforming information.
The good news is that roughly three-fifths of the population of developed countries are information workers and about 80% of their work is partially or totally location independent. A little quick arithmetic shows that about half of the workforce of developed countries are potential teleworkers. Continue reading Aroundsourcing
For years I have tried to steer clients away from the use of productivity as a means of measuring the results of what teleworkers do. The reason for this is simply that productivity is a word associated with things, widgets, stove bolts, automobiles coming off the assembly line, and other manufactured objects. The broader, macroeconomic view is that productivity is somehow related to efficiency and value added. If a product sells for more than the costs of capital, materials, labor, and facilities used to produce it, then positive productivity must be at work.
The problem is that it is pretty hard to evaluate that sort of productivity for many types of information work simply because it is hard to identify the product to be measured. Continue reading Teleworker profectiveness
When we first started to formally test telecommuting in 1973 the main objective was to determine whether anyone could successfully telecommute as an employee of a real business organization. My main chain of reasoning, resulting from a conversation with a regional planner somewhere around 1970, was as follows:
- Urban traffic is getting out of hand, especially during “rush hours”. Why? Because of all those cars on the road, most of which are single occupant vehicles.
- Why are all those cars on the road? Most of them contain people who are commuting between home and work.