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.
Continue reading Unions for Teleworkers?
Telework versus transportation: for the past four decades much of my work on telework and its telecommuting subset has been on demonstrating the relative advantages and disadvantages of those two. It all started in the early 1970s when I got fed up with wasting my time sitting in traffic twice, or more, daily. The commute to and from work was a drag.
Then came the proverbial lightbulb! If what I’m doing at work simply requires a phone (remember, this was in the dark ages of computing) and a desk, why do I have to fight traffic for more than an hour every day to do it? Why not do it from home (Starbucks hadn’t been invented yet either)?
Since then a growing number of people and organizations have come to the same conclusion, fortified by the evidence that telework and telecommuting are good for business. There are now tens of millions of teleworkers worldwide and the number continues to grow.
So now what?
Continue reading Thoughts on telework versus transportation
According to the Wall Street Journal of 18 May 2017 [Note: the referenced article has a paywall], IBM has decided to call in all its telecommuters. The option given to the telecommuters is either to come in to an IBM facility every day or look for a job with some other employer. This was a shock to me since I helped IBM get its telecommuting program started in 1984, way back in the 20th century. So IBM has been supporting (and lauding) telework for 33 years. And now they have decided to stop it, to retreat to the pre-1980s. This does not seem to be a wise move. Why are they doing it?
The answer from IBM sounds a lot like Marissa Mayer’s excuse for calling in the telecommuters of Yahoo! Business is bad and it doesn’t seem to be getting better so it’s time call in all the troops in order to ignite a burst of innovation. Get them together every day so that the ensuing interpersonal communication (or friction), like striking a match, will produce light and the company will turn the corner and prosper. The implication, of course, is that business is bad because of telecommuting. Therefore it’s the telecommuters who are the source of the problem. It’s what my friend, Gil Gordon, calls telescapegoating!
Continue reading IBM retreats to 20th century, drops telecommuters
On 23 June 2016 the voters of the United Kingdom opted to leave the European Union; Brexit won. So far the consequences have been jubilation, shock, horror, recrimination, disaster and confusion. But one of the consequences may be a surge in Brexit-induced teleworking. Here’s why.
Continue reading Brexit-induced teleworking?
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law by George H. W. Bush. Since the ADA emerged in 1990 a great deal of progress has been made in expanding the options for disabled people. Good progress but not enough. Telework for the disabled is an option that needs more recognition.
Continue reading Telework for the disabled
The following announcement showed up in my email recently:
The Broadband Opportunity Council (Council), the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are requesting public comment to inform the deliberations of the Council. Stakeholders have the opportunity to review the Federal Register Notice and submit written comments by e-mail to BOCrfc2015@ntia.doc.gov on or before 5 p.m. Eastern time on June 10, 2015.
Details of the request can be found in the Federal Register. One of the impacts of improved rural telecommunications access is increased opportunities for telework. Here are some of my thoughts on the topic.
Continue reading Thoughts on rural broadband
Once again we find some commentary in the press about the questionable management techniques in some large corporations. This time the commentary is about Yahoo! — again. Specifically, the New York Times Magazine had an extensive article by Nicholas Carlson titled “What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs” in its 21 December 2014 issue.
Although the Times article covers a number of management mistakes made by the highly paid ($117 million over 5 years) Mayer, I was particularly struck by a section about Mayer’s management style:
Continue reading It’s the management, stupid — again
That vaunted fount of innovation, the Silicon Valley, may be showing signs of aging. It is beginning to resemble the history of industrial development before the information age. Some of the symptoms are: growing larger companies by gobbling up smaller ones; attempting to control markets by stifling startups (or by engulfing them as in the prior case); and developing borg-like headquarters facilities aimed at exerting almost total control over the lives of their employees. From the Company store to the company town. From Silicon Valley to Assimilation Valley.
Continue reading Assimilation Valley: signs of aging?
There is a major politico-economic tug of war going on these days. It is between those who want the internet to work as it has been for the last few decades and those who want to have the internet provide preferential treatment to certain customers. This may sound like an abstruse issue but it’s not. In particular it may decrease your ability to telework in the future.
Continue reading Telework and network neutrality
In case you haven’t heard it yet, Marissa Mayer the new leader of Yahoo! has decided to terminate telecommuting for all Yahoo! employees as of June. Not just some telecommuting, all telecommuting. Her reasoning appears to be:
- Yahoo! needs to be more competitive;
- competitive organizations always have all their employees in the office every day so that they can interact with each other;
- therefore Yahoo! needs to have all of its employees in the office every day so that they can interact with each other and be more competitive!
The only problem with that syllogism is that statement 2, although generally applicable around the time of Abraham Lincoln, is wrong for most information-based organizations in the 21st century. Here’s why.